Southern Miss finishes the season undefeated at home, defeating Georgia Southern 73-62


Southern Miss finished the 2022-2023 season with a home record as good as gold. Head coach Jay Ladner told his team that one of the goals for the season was to go undefeated at home, and the Golden Eagles did just that with a 73-62 victory over Georgia Southern.

“It’s very, very hard to win a Division 1 game,” Ladner said. “Good teams can win on the road. We’ve been able to do that for the most part, but before you can establish winning on the road, you have to establish winning at home… When you look back over the course of the season at how many tough games there were… to be 15-0 is not easy.”

Though the final score wasn’t particularly close, the Golden Eagles got a few bruises in the process. With 10:57 left in the second half, a fight broke out between both teams on the court. Tensions were already boiling after Georgia Southern head coach Brian Burg was charged with a technical foul following a foul call he disagreed with. Moments later, a fight for the ball turned into a shoving match with bench players storming the court. Coaches from both teams ran on to attempt to deescalate the situation, leading to the ejection of assistant coach Nick Williams and a Georgia Southern assistant.

“The rule is that the only person that can come off the sideline is the head coach,” Ladner said. “I think it’s unfortunate, and the officials even agreed. They didn’t want to enforce it, but they had to enforce the rule as stated.”

Southern Miss was fortunate that it was a coach that got ejected instead of a player because it could have led to a suspension in the following game. Denijay Harris was right in the middle of the altercation, though he downplayed the incident.

“That was just the result of two guys playing hard,” Harris said.

Though fellow senior Deandre Pinckney wasn’t in the middle of the fight, he did his best to make sure cooler heads prevailed.“I just went over there and grabbed their guys [because] I didn’t want anybody doing [anything] stupid,” Deandre Pinckney said.

“They’ve got games to finish and we’ve got games to finish. The last thing we need is guys getting suspended games because of something that could have been avoided.”

In his first start since returning from injury, Neftali Alvarez led the team in scoring with 19, including five three-pointers on seven attempts. This comes after his highlight-worthy assist against South Alabama made an appearance on ESPN platforms. Elsewhere, Harris came up with a career-high 14 rebounds along with nine points. Felipe Haase came up just short of a double-double and had a chance at a triple-double as he recorded 13 points with nine rebounds and seven assists.

It was a tightly-contested first half with neither team seeming to gain an edge until the end of the period. The senior Pinckney got the scoring started for the Golden Eagles with a jumper on the first possession. Southern Miss led by five at the 15-minute mark, but three consecutive buckets by Georgia Southern gave them the lead. GSU held a slight advantage until the Golden Eagle defense stepped up, forcing seven misses on Georgia Southern’s final eight attempts of the half. 

“That’s been our main focus at home,” Pinckney said. “We play defense better at home with the crowd chanting ‘defense’ and the student section. Hearing that makes us want to play defense even harder.”

Alvarez led the team in first half scoring with eight, including a pair of three-pointers. The team shot 45% in the first half while allowing 34% shooting by GSU, but nine turnovers for the Golden Eagles kept the score close.

The second half was far less of a struggle for Southern Miss. Aided by a 10-0 run halfway through the midway point of the second period, the Golden Eagles soared to a 15-point lead with 10:57 left. Tensions reached a boiling point at this time, though, as the aforementioned skirmish leading to the multiple ejections transpired.

After the dust settled, Southern Miss regained composure and had no problem closing out the game to finish undefeated at home. Pinckney ended the game with a well-deserved exclamation point, dropping the hammer down with a dunk with 48 seconds remaining.

The Golden Eagles led in the entirety of the second half, and they shot 46% including 43% from downtown on the day. Southern Miss did better on turnovers by three in the second half, and they were able to coast by after gaining the huge lead.

Saturday marked the final game for the outgoing Golden Eagle seniors, including Pinckney, Harris, Haase, Tyler Mormon, Nico Aguirre and Marcelo Perez.

“It doesn’t feel real. I was sitting in the locker room before and said ‘wow,’” Haase said. “We tried to build the program back up, and we feel like we did that.”

24-5 (13-3) Southern Miss maintains a one-game lead in the Sun Belt as they travel to Virginia to take on 16-11 (8-7) Old Dominion Wednesday at 6pm.