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Victor Iwuakor’s last-second layup completes Southern Miss’ stunning comeback over Troy

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Southern Miss Athletics

Victor Iwuakor made a go-ahead layup with 2.8 seconds left to lift Southern Miss past top-ranked Sun Belt team Troy.

“We have an incredibly tough group, a tight group, resilient group, and like I said the other night against Arkansas State, even with what the circumstances that our program our team was faced with this season.” Southern Miss head coach Jay Ladner said.

Iwuakor’s layup completed an 18-point comeback by the Golden Eagles after going down 56-38 with 13 minutes left in the second half.

Southern Miss outscored Troy from then 26-7 over the next 13 minutes to complete an incredible rally over a team that beat them by 26 last Saturday.

“It is so big beating them after getting embarrassed over there last Saturday,” Ladner said. “I think that says a lot about our staff, players, and culture.”

The game went back and forth in the opening few minutes, with neither team being able to jump out to a substantial lead.

Southern Miss trailed 34-33 at halftime despite outshooting the Trojans 64% to 38%. The Golden Eagles even held the advantage from deep with seven three to the Trojans’s six. The real difference was the turnovers.

Southern Miss turned the ball over nine times in the first half, resulting in 10 of the Trojans points. Troy was outrebounding USM and had more assists than the Golden Eagles in the first half. Nevertheless, it was a hotly contested game, and Austin Crowley nailed a jump shot early in the second half to give Southern Miss a slight advantage of 35-34.

From then on, it was all Trojans. They put together a 16-0 run and were doing anything they wanted on the offensive side of the ball. The Trojans built the lead up to 56-38 before Southern Miss started slowly but assuredly climbing back into the game.

“We just we just tried to play every possession,” Ladner said. “I thought our guys did a good job of not panicking when we got down 18, and I thought they stayed with the plan.”

From about the 13-minute mark of the second half, Southern Miss went into absolute lockdown mode on the defensive side of the ball. Troy did not even make a basket for the game’s last seven and a half minutes. Ladner stressed that nothing changed for the defensive scheme, just that his guys “executed it better.”

Two of those guys were Donovan Ivory and Cobie Montgomery, who both had big games for the Golden Eagles to help get them back into the second half.

Ivory had 20 points and a couple of big three-pointers late in the second half. Montgomery kept Southern Miss in the game early with his three three-pointers. However, Southern Miss went on a 10-0 run and then finished the game on a 16-7 run to win the contest.

“I think we are staying together, staying confident,” Ivory said. “You know, a lot of teams when you see a big deficit, it’s easy to check out of the game. I don’t think we ever did that. I think we knew that. We’re at home, we have to win at home. I think we know we have faith in our guys and our defense as well. So just the key is to come back and win the game. And mentally staying in the game and then execute offensively and defensively. So, we did.”

It all led to Iwuakor’s game-winning layup at the end of the game that completed the comeback and gave Southern Miss their first lead since Crowley’s basket back at the beginning of the second half.

Southern Miss won in front of the season’s largest crowd (5,587), and there’s no question that the energy and sound made a crucial difference.

“Today was another great example of why our place is one of the hardest places to play in America.” Ladner said.

With the win, Southern Miss moves up to tie for second place in the Sun Belt standings. Their record improves to 11-8 and 5-2 in conference play.

They hit the road next and play Coastal Carolina on Thursday night. The tip-off is scheduled for 6 PM.

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