Western Kentucky edges Southern Miss

Published 6:45 pm Sunday, March 3, 2019

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Taveion Hollingsworth had 21 points as Western Kentucky narrowly defeated Southern Miss 76-71 on Sunday.

Josh Anderson had 17 points for Western Kentucky (18-12, 11-6 Conference USA). Lamonte Bearden added 13 points. Charles Bassey had four blocks for the hosts.

Dominic Magee, whose 12 points for Southern Miss put him in double figures for the first time since Dec. 15, drove in traffic to hit a layup with 40 seconds left, cutting it to 72-71.

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Western Kentucky’s Jared Savage made a corner 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to up the advantage back to 75-71 and essentially put the game on ice.

“When you go on the road, it’s hard to win giving up 76 points,” Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler said. “We competed hard. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort. Defensively, we got back to giving up lane drives and some open shots. Our guys need to understand that direct-line drives become open jump shots. The bottom line is that we competed and played as hard as we could. We were within one point and driving the basketball.”

Western Kentucky went 11-for-23 from 3-point range and clinched a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament with the win.

“There’s not many nights we’ve walked in here and made 11 3s, is there?” WKU coach Rick Stansbury said. “It’s been 16 games since we walked in here and shot the ball the way we shot the ball. If you’re going to ask me one thing that was different: we shot the basketball.”

Tyree Griffin tied a season high with 21 points and had nine assists for the Golden Eagles (17-11, 9-7). LaDavius Draine added 16 points. Magee had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Southern Miss faces Old Dominion, which has clinched the C-USA regular-season championship, on the road Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Southern Miss has lost its first two games in Conference USA’s new bonus play setup, which sets the final four games of the regular season based on the standings in an attempt to boost the league’s NCAA Tournament profile.

“For us to win these close basketball games, now and in the tournament, we are going to have to take care of the ball,” Sadler said. “We can’t make simple mistakes on the defensive end. We gave up an open layup on an out-of-bounds pass for maybe the first time all year. Points are too hard to get to do things like that.”