USM Basketball looks to make turnaround with new, but familiar faces


Charlie Luttrell

DeAndre Pickney celebrates after a home win against Loyola.

HATTIESBURG, MS – Southern Miss Men’s basketball has found new life this year that they have not had in years past. The Golden Eagles ran past Loyola (New Orleans) for a 3-0 start to the 2022 campaign. This new-look team has looked exceptionally different than past Ladner teams.

“Credit to Loyola, not exactly what we expected,” said Head Coach Jay Ladner. “They were scrappy, and a small ball team. They play a lot of guard players, and skill guys that can shoot it. I was very impressed with them. It wasn’t our best game, but it was a good workman like game.”

The first 10 minutes of the first half was a balanced game on both sides of the ball for teams. Both teams were able move the ball around and get shots up, but neither side was converting those shots consistently.

Southern Miss was being plagued with missed free throws early and fouls early. Sometimes Ladner and Juan Cardona’s high-paced, on-ball pressure of a defense works, but the fouls it has a chance of giving up is a significant downfall. Southern Miss had seven team fouls within the first 10 minutes of play, which put Loyola in the bonus.

“Their point guards are quick, and they got guys that can really shoot it,” Ladner said. “I thought we were a little tentative. But after the second media timeout, we made adjustments Coach Juan said the heck with this we are going back to our bread and butter. That is when you saw the pressure get ignited a bit.”

The Golden Eagles were also being bullied in the paint early. At the under eight timeout, Southern Miss was outscored in the paint 18-10, not ideal when they were already not shooting well. Still, their defense had kept them in the game.

The last 10 minutes of the first half, Southern Miss was able to play tighter defense and that defense was finally starting to turn into offense for the Golden Eagles.They started steadily pulling away opening their largest lead with two minutes remaining the half. The difference was that their defensive pressure was wearing down the Wolfpack, which led to quick transition baskets, and Southern Miss was able to score in the paint more with ease.

“The last couple of games outside of Vanderbilt, we have started a little slow,” said forward Felipe Hasse. “But we approach it as a boxing game. Coaches like to see it like that. We are measuring all the time. They got off to a good start, they are a high-volume, three-pointing-shooting team. We may have gotten a little too concerned with that, which opened the lane a bit.”

To close the half, Southern Miss went on a 6-0 run after capturing their largest lead of the night and went into the locker-room with a 13-point cushion, 45-32. DeAndre Pickney led Southern Miss scorers with 13, and Denijay Harris was right being him with 10 points off the bench.

Southern Miss had 19 bench points in the first half, which was a testament to their depth this season. They also benefited from eight points off of Wolfpack turnovers and nine second chance points. From halftime on, they never looked back extending their lead early in the second half to 16.

“Our pressure ignited. That was the difference in the game.” Ladner said.

Over the first eight minutes of the second half, Southern Miss turned what was a 13-point halftime lead to a 21-point lead, outscoring the Wolfpack 18-10. The Golden Eagles full court press was really hurting the ability of the Wolfpack to move the ball down the court. Southern Miss had five points off their turnovers and 14 points in the paint.

From then on it was all Southern Miss opening up a 28-point lead late in the second half to completely pull away and reach 3-0.

Hasse led all Southern Miss scorers with 17 points, and Pickney was right behind him with 16 points. Pickney was super-efficient— 5-8 on field goals, 2-4 from the arc, along with seven rebounds and four steals.

“I know the start of the season didn’t go as expected, but I know I put in the work every day,” Pickney said. “So it’s like I can’t dread the situation or be down on myself if the ball doesn’t go down. If I put in the work, it’s going to all come together. It’s basketball. Everybody has bad games, but it’s not about those games, it’s how you respond to them.”

Southern Miss outrebounded Loyola (44-26). They had more bench points (32-14), more points in the paint (50-40), had more second chance points (20-7) and led the game for more than 30 minutes. They thoroughly dominated and are 3-0 for the first time since 2018.

“We’re really excited about the start, and we just have to keep it going,” Ladner said. “We got to keep building. We got to keep things in perspective, and we got to come back and look at the things we have to im-prove on. We have got to improve our offensive execution, now at times we have executed really, really well. We want to be good at all phases. But…it’s been fun so far.”

The fun continues Friday when Southern Miss (3-0) travel to Lynchburg, VA to take on the Liberty Flames (2-1).