GREENVILLE, N.C. (WTVA/USM Athletics) – Southern Miss erased an 11-point deficit with five minutes to play, capping off a furious comeback to earn an 86-82 overtime victory over East Carolina, Saturday night from Minges Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles improved to (20-6, 9-2 Conference USA). It is the fourth straight year that Southern Miss has won 20 games, just the second time in school history that that has happened. It also won 20 games from 1950-54. The victory also gave head coach Donnie Tyndall the most wins in school history by a first-year coach. It was also the ninth straight win over East Carolina.
“That’s a very good East Carolina team,” said Tyndall. “The biggest key was us driving the ball and getting to the foul line. We just had a relentless approach and style that even though things weren’t going our way, we slowly but surely got ourselves back in the game. Anytime a team makes 15 three’s against us and you still win, that’s pretty impressive.”
Dwayne Davis led Southern Miss with 23 points. It was his third straight 20-point game. Neil Watson scored 17 points and tied a career-high with eight rebounds and Jonathan Mills had 14 points and eight boards.
Southern Miss trailed 66-55 with 5:41 to play after two Miguel Paul free throws. The Golden Eagles missed two straight jumpers, but on the third try, Watson got one to fall. Robert Sampson then hit one-of-two free throws to push the lead back to 10.
Watson then hit a pair of free throws, followed by a layup from Rashard McGill to make it a six-point game. Akeem Richard hit one-of-two free throws, but layups by Davis and Mills, followed by a free throw from Davis, cut the deficit to two with 2:18 to play.
Miguel Paul pushed the lead back to four on a pair of free throws, but Jerrold Brooks hit Southern Miss’ only three-pointer of the game, cutting the deficit to one point. Paul hit one-of-two free throws, but with 28 seconds left, Davis hit a pair from the charity stripe, tying the game at 71. East Carolina had one last chance to win it, by Marshall Guilmette’s jumper rimmed out, sending the game to overtime.
Davis got things going to start overtime, hitting a jumper to give Southern Miss its first lead since leading 14-12 in the first half. After each teams missed a basket, Paul nailed a three-pointer to give ECU the lead. After Brooks missed a jumper, McGill got the rebound and made the putback, getting fouled in the process. McGill completed the three-point play, but a three-pointer from Richmond put the Pirates ahead, 77-76, with 2:52 to play.
After Watson and Paul each hit a pair of free throws, Davis hit a jumper to put Southern Miss ahead 80-79. Davis then hit a pair of free throws, and Watson hit one of two to give the Golden Eagles their largest lead of the game, 83-79, with 23 seconds left. But a three from Sampson cut the deficit to one.
Davis then hit one-of-two free throws to make it 84-82, but with one 1.1 seconds left, Paris Roberts-Campbell threw the ball away. Cedric Jenkins then clinched the victory with two free throws.
Richmond led all scorers with 25 points, including hitting eight three-pointers, which tied the Southern Miss opponent record. Paul had 22 points and eight assists, and Sampson had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Southern Miss shot 50.0-percent (31-of-62) from the floor, but was just 1-of-9 (11.1%) from behind the three-point arc. The Golden Eagles also connected on 76.7-percent (23-of-30) from the charity stripe. East Carolina was 27-of-61 (44.3%) from the floor, including hitting 15-of-37 (40.5%) from three. Southern Miss also out-rebounded the Pirates, 40-to-30.
Southern Miss returns home next Wednesday, Feb. 20, when it hosts UTEP. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT.