Southern Miss men’s basketball one and done in Sun Belt Tournament

After winning just the second out-right conference championship in school history, the Southern Miss men’s basketball team went one and done in the Sun Belt Tournament.

Tough test right out of the gate against 8-seed South Alabama in Saturday’s quarterfinal match-up at the Pensacola Bay Center.

The Golden Eagles led by as many as six points in the first half of what turned out to be a back-and-forth affair until the Jaguars took over down the stretch, at one point going on a 20-2 run en route to a 78-61 result.

Denijay Harris and Felipe Haase lead the way for USM with 18 points each, but they didn’t get much help from the second unit, failing to score a single bench point.

The Black and Gold also struggled to take care of the ball, getting outscored in points off turnovers 25 to 6.

Not exactly what USM had in mind, but silver lining is the fact that there’s still more basketball to be played, having already secured an automatic bid to the NIT, the same tournament Southern Miss Head Coach Jay Ladner won as a player back in 1987. “The only four-year school in the history of the state of Mississippi to win a national championship is Southern Miss in 1987, and maybe that’s where the Lord is intending us. Our guys are hurt and they didn’t want to hear that, but I gave them that same scenario in the locker room a few minutes ago, and it was a Deja vu moment for me because we were crushed when we got knocked out of the Metro conference in ’87, and of course had an NIT berth, ended up hosting Ole Miss at the start of NIT, and after a few days our guys said, hey, we’re just happy to be playing basketball some more. Let’s make the most of it. Of course, the NIT is prestigious, and these guys love each other. They’re not ready to quit playing, so I can’t be more proud of a group of guys. Disappointed and I hurt with them. I hurt, personally. They hurt because they’ve worked so hard to change the direction of our program, and I’m forever indebted to them.”

USM heads into the NIT with an overall record of 25-7.

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