Southern Miss ends remarkable season with NIT loss to UAB 88-60

BIRMINGHAM, Ala – In a season that will be remembered by so many for a long time, the book came to a close with a 88-60 loss to UAB in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT)

“I’ve been a head coach for 32 years at some level and it’s very, very difficult to find the right words that this was at the end of the season.” Southern Miss head coach Jay Ladner said.

The Golden Eagles once again were without their star in Neftali Alverez. He was in street clothes on the court before the game while the rest of the team was warming up. Alverez’s presence would have been crucial in guarding UAB guard Jordan Walker, who went for 16 points and two assists tonight.

However, in all fairness, holding Walker under his scoring average on the season was a big win for Southern Miss. But KJ Buffen dominated the inside for the Blazers. He had a double-double with 26 points and 12 rebounds. The Blazers had 50 points in the paint versus 18 points from the Golden Eagles.

Turnovers were another massive part of the outcome of the contest. Southern Miss had 24 turnovers tonight, and the Blazers capitalized with 30 points from those mistakes. The gameplay felt eerily identical to the South Alabama quarterfinal matchup. It was an excellent back-and-forth game, but then Southern Miss’ turnovers caught up with them, and the Blazers pulled away in the same way the Jaguars pulled away in that game.

“We have played one game in 17 days, and we just seemed a little bit out of sync, and we turned it over entirely too much. We knew we had to control the turnovers. And then the second thing UAB of course, is an outstanding offensive rebounding team. And we knew that we had to be really good on our defensive glass, and we just didn’t get the job done there.” Ladner said.

The game was actually tied midway through the second half before UAB went on a 19-4 run to take complete control of the game. When you think about the draw that Southern Miss had in postseason play with South Alabama (the hottest team in the Sun Belt, barely missed the NCAA tournament) and then UAB on the road. This team was knocked out in the championship game of the C-USA tournament; it is insane.

“It’s baffling to me how we had to come play UAB in the first round…… I thought we deserved better, and what I mean by that is I felt like that we had earned the right to maybe host the ball game. And that’s that sort of thing that are beyond our control,” Ladner said.

Nevertheless, whatever happened this evening, nothing dampens what happened over the season for Southern Miss. In one of the biggest turnarounds in college basketball history, Southern Miss fans will remember it for a long time. There is so much to take away from this team.


“I would have never anticipated that we set the school record for wins and won the league for only the second time in school history, we won it outright, and we were 15-0 at home. They did so many good things and I don’t want the last couple of games but to take away from what they accomplished, and I’m forever indebted to them and welcome.” Ladner said.

Southern Miss inherited so many transfers who changed the course of the season, including a guy like Felipe Hasse, whom some argue was one of the catalysts to the remarkable turnaround. Hasse finished tonight with seven points with five turnovers.

“There’s a lot of things to remember, it’s been a journey man…I never thought in my life I would live in Mississippi, but it has changed my life.” Hasse said.

“I can’t say enough about Felipe and how he’s changed the fortunes of our program. I’ve had the good fortune of to have coached a lot of fine men, and he’s right there at the top…. he’s like a son to me.” Ladner said.

So much more could be said about all these seniors and the turnaround they were able to accomplish.

What is next for Southern Miss?

Southern Miss loses Denijay Harris, Tyler Mormon, DeAndre Pinckney, Nicco Aguirre, Hasse, and Tyler Morman. But Jay Ladner is confident that the players coming in are strong.

“I think it [the future] looks great. To be honest, we got a great group of guys back, we are losing five players. We’ve got all of our ones are back. Our twos are back, threes are back, their backups. We got a young man sitting out that’s our best athlete and maybe our best scorer that red shirted this past year. Also, we’re able now to recruit. We were in begging people to come, now we’re able to be a lot more selective because of the type of season that we’ve had.” Ladner said.

The season was astonishing; the future is bright, and there is nothing for the team to hang their heads about after this loss tonight.