Southern Miss. 59, SMU 52
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Jarvis Hill scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Jeremy Wise added 15 points to lead Southern Mississippi to a 59-52 victory over SMU in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament on Wednesday afternoon.
Courtney Beasley added 11 points for the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles, who will face Houston, the tournament’s No. 3 seed on Thursday.
“We won a game that we expected to win, and now we move on,” Southern Mississippi coach Larry Eustachy said. “I was proud of our toughness. This team has come a long way.”
Southern Mississippi (20-10) led by 52-42 with 4:49 left when Hill connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
SMU (14-17), seeded 11th in the tournament, was never able to get it under five points the rest of the way.
“Hill was the guy, if there was one guy, you would say hurt us,” SMU coach Matt Doherty said. “He made the big shots. Other than that, I thought we were pretty good defensively.”
Devon Pearson led the Mustangs with 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. Dez Willingham and Ike Ofoegbu scored 11 points each. Ofoegbu, SMU’s leading scorer at 14.5 points a game, managed only four shots.
SMU came into the game with a bit of confidence after losing to No. 5 Memphis 64-61 in the regular season finale.
Southern Mississippi held a 32-28 advantage at the break after leading by as many as nine in the first half.
Beasley and Wise had nine points each to lead the Golden Eagles, while Pearson scored 10 for the Mustangs.
SMU struggled from the field in the early stages, eventually shooting 38 percent in the half, including missing nine of 11 shots outside the arc. The Mustangs would finish the game shooting 37 percent, but only 29 percent outside the arc.
“The ball didn’t go through the hoop for us,” Doherty said. ” … That’s not us.”
The shooting allowed Southern Miss to build an early lead. The Golden Eagles scored 11 unanswered points during one stretch of the first half, part of a 14-2 run, that gave them their biggest lead of the half at 28-19.
Despite the shooting woes, SMU still stayed close in the first half, and had it within a basket before two free throws from Beasley in the final seconds gave Southern Mississippi its halftime lead.
The Golden Eagles never relinquished the lead in the second half.
“We just played our game,” Eustachy said of the second half. “It just so happened that we played it better in the second half and got to the basket where they fouled us. We didn’t settle so much.”