Southern Miss’ C-USA tournament run comes to end


FRISCO, Texas— For the third time this season, Southern Miss was defeated by Western Kentucky, this time in the semifinal round of the Conference USA tournament. The Hilltoppers’ defense and size proved to be the difference in the win for Western Kentucky, as they handed the Golden Eagles a 70-59 loss on Friday.

“I thought for 30 minutes in each game we played really, we played {Western Kentucky] as well as we could play at times,” Southern Miss head coach Doc Sadler said. “The thing that we take pride in is not turning the basketball over and taking care of the paint, and that’s something we didn’t do today. When you play in big ball games that’s what you got to do. Uncharacteristic was the turnovers that we had and then the offensive rebounds and more importantly just the drives and transition.”

Southern Miss vs Western Kentucky photo gallery

The Golden Eagles turned the ball over 16 times after posting a season average of just 10, which was the top mark in C-USA.

“We got a couple of blocks and a couple of layups but we didn’t secure the ball,” guard Cortez Edwards said. “So [we we’re] just trying to tell the guys to be more aggressive when the ball [was] loose and make the right rotations when the defense is taking you out.”

Despite the turnovers, Western Kentucky penetrated inside the paint, outscoring Southern Miss 32-12 in that category and scored 18 points off second-chance opportunities, while the Golden Eagles did not score any second-chance points. The Hilltoppers also outrebounded the Golden Eagles 44-27.

“I think they got most of the 50-50 balls so every time there was a batted ball or just a deflection they ended up winning and making the play,” Edwards said

The second chance plays and rebounds culminated with Western Kentucky’s final run that broke the game open at the 7:29 mark, as the Hilltoppers took control with a 12-3 run.

“I think in one stretch they had seven straight in transition and you’re not going to beat a good team when that happens, but give [Western Kentucky] credit, they have a heck of a basketball team,” Sadler said. “Something we don’t do that I should have probably done was play zone [defense] and I didn’t, but we don’t. Looking back, I think that’s one thing that could have helped us a little bit.”

Point guard Tyree Griffin led the Golden Eagles with 19 points and Edwards finished with 10 points.

“I’m very proud of my team,” Sadler said. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We came down here with the intentions of winning, but you know what we’ll give [Western Kentucky] credit and we’ll learn from it and move on. Hopefully, that’s not the last game that this team plays if it’s not then we’ll be better the next time we play.”