Donovan Ivory’s season-high leads undefeated Southern Miss past Montana 64-54

HATTIESBURG, MS – Southern Miss basketball continues its undefeated roll. They have now surpassed their season win total from last season already…in the first eight games.

The Golden Eagles achieved that by avenging last season’s road loss with a 64-54 win against Montana. Donovan Ivory led the team to victory with a season-high 20 points, along with five rebounds off the bench.

“He told me ‘I’m not worried about starting.’,” Head Coach Jay Ladner said. “He’s good enough to start, and we have got other guys good enough to start. But he said, ‘I want to be the sixth man of the year in the league.’ He has been good the last four games, but he has been really good the last two games.”

“My teammates did a really good job trying to find me. I think we played well on the floor, and I happened to score points, but it could’ve been anyone tonight.” Ivory said.

Ivory was recruited all the way from Wisconsin and has been a significant addition to this new-look roster. That was apparent tonight.

The size was an issue early for Southern Miss. Montana has only one player on its roster who is under six feet. Southern Miss was able to use the defensive pressure that they have been successful with so far this season, and ball movement to get some early three-point baskets to open a 9-3 lead

“[They are] very well coached. Every cut was banging in there. They do such a good job on defense, and we knew that. I said it in pregame that tonight that baskets would be hard to come by tonight, and sure enough, they were,” Ladner said.

Felipe Hasse handed the ball to Austin Crowley with a beautiful inbound play, that led to a slam dunk which helped Southern Miss take control early. Crowley had seven of the first 13 Southern Miss points.

The Grizzlies and the Golden Eagles were able to start to get their points in the paint. Montana had plenty of opportunities to score in the paint early just due to their size.

“They were being really aggressive. That was the main thing,” Forward DeAndre Pickney said.

Ivory labeled the Grizzlies’ defense as “physical.”

However, the Golden Eagles matched that intensity by holding the Grizzlies to just under ten points in the paint early. Everything else Montana would have to just work for.

Southern Miss took a 32-24 lead into the locker room, led by Ivory’s ten points and followed by Hasse’s eight points and Crowley’s seven.

Southern Miss was outshot by the Grizzlies 43%-42% at the half but had made more FGs made (11-21 to 9-21.) Southern Miss was also shooting 42% from the three-point line, with a 5-12 showing from the perimeter at halftime. Southern Miss just had two points off turnovers but was outrebounding Montana 25-24. The first couple of minutes of the second half were even. Montana would not let Southern Miss pull away; they hung around in the game early in the second half.

Every time it seemed Southern Miss was going to pull away in the second half, Montana was able to hit a three-pointer to negate the momentum that the Golden Eagles were able to build. Even still after Southern Miss got the lead back in the first quarter, they never relinquished it.

“I thought our shot selection was pretty good. But [Montana is] just a very, very tough defensive team and I’m proud of our guys for winning their eighth game,” Ladner said.

Southern Miss was able to hang on in the end, with some key free throws late in the game that put the game out of reach. Southern Miss outshot Montana at the end 40%-38%, but the free throws were the difference. The Golden Eagles scored ten more points than Montana did from the foul line, which was the final margin of victory.

“20-26, and as much as I was in that official’s ear, I thought we should have shot 46. But it was that physical, and at about the second media timeout, that’s when we started emphasizing drive the ball [and] that’s where we felt like we had the advantage.” Ladner said.

Southern Miss is 8-0 and doing all of this without two players who would be getting significant minutes if healthy. Neftali Alverez is dealing with a foot injury, but Ladner said that he is, “improving daily.” They expect to have him back by the start of Sun Belt play. Ladner said Denijay Harris is suffering from “cracked ribs” and will be out for a couple of weeks.

Southern Miss hits the road next to take on Northwestern State, which is no cakewalk. The Demons knocked off then-ranked No. 15 TCU on the road earlier this season.