Southern Miss strengthens grip on first place in the Sun Belt

Published 7:51 pm Saturday, February 11, 2023

HATTIESBURG — Southern Miss is still perfect at home, and still in command in the Sun Belt.

Felipe Haase scored 23 points, DeAndre Pinckney added 17, and Southern Miss beat Louisiana-Monroe 76-67 on Saturday for its ninth consecutive victory.

Southern Miss (23-4, 12-2 Sun Belt Conference) improved its record at Reed Green Coliseum to 14-0. It also moved two games ahead of Louisiana-Lafayette and Marshall atop the Sun Belt standings with four conference games left. This is only the third time in program history that USM has won at least 23 games in a season, and first since 2011-12.

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Louisiana-Monroe (11-16, 7-7) led 36-31 in the opening minute of the second half, before Southern Miss got hot and took the lead for good. A 3-pointer by Mo Arnold with 19:02 remaining ignited a a 21-5 run.

A free throw by Pinckney put Southern Miss ahead 52-41 with 12:33 to go.

Louisiana-Monroe battled back to get within five, at 63-58 on a 3-pointer by Devon Hancock with 4:48 left, but never got closer. Southern Miss’ Austin Crowley answered Hancock with a s 3-pointer of his own, and then a free throw by Haase and a layup be Denijay Harris restored the lead to 11 points within a minute.

The Golden Eagles went 5-for-6 at the free throw line in the last 40 seconds to close it out. Haase made two of those to cap off a 9-for-9 performance at the line. As a team, the Golden Eagles were 17-for-23.

Harris finished with 12 points for Southern Miss, Crowley had seven points and eight rebounds, and Neftali Alvarez had nine points and seven rebounds.

Tyreke Locure led Louisiana-Monroe with 24 points and Jamari Blackmon scored 14.

“We struggled with them at their place, and of course we struggled with them today. We got in some quick foul trouble. That’s been our deal the last three or four games,” Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner said. “But we had a lot of other guys step in there and keep things together, and I thought in the second half we played well.”