Southern Miss stumbles on the road against Old Dominion

Published 9:38 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

NORFOLK, Va. — Southern Miss has been at the front of the Sun Belt Conference race all season, but it’ll need some help at the finish line to win it.

Dericko Williams hit two free throws with 42 seconds left to give Old Dominion the lead for good, and the Monarchs knocked off Southern Miss 69-64 on Wednesday.

Old Dominion was 20-for-27 at the free throw line, and scored its last eight points on free throws. Mekhi Long led Old Dominion (18-11, 10-7 Sun Belt) with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Chaunce Jenkins scored 16 points, and Williams had nine points and 11 rebounds.

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Old Dominion won for the eighth time in its last 10 games.

“After the game, I couldn’t really find the words. I told our guys I’m wearing the word proud out and I’m trying to find another word and for that. I’m going to have to check my Thesaurus,” Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones said. “These guys, they’re digging down, they’re sticking together, they’re staying positive, all of it. As a coach this is what you want to see. You want the group to come together and be better than the sum of its parts, and that’s exactly what is happening.”

Southern Miss (24-6, 13-4) led 59-52 with 6:53 remaining after back-to-back 3-pointers by Felipe Haase and Donovan Ivory. The Golden Eagles missed their next six shots, however, and only made one of its last 11 coming down the stretch.

“It felt like a tournament game,” Long said. “They were the No. 1 team in the conference, so it was a big win. We’ve been saying that when teams come into our home, nobody comes to ODU and just walks out with a win.”

DeAndre Pinckney had a double-double for Southern Miss, with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Haase led the team with 18 points, and Austin Crowley finished with 11 points and five assists.

After losing to Old Dominion, Southern Miss has dropped two of its last three games and will now need its help to win the Sun Belt title outright.

Southern Miss slipped into a tie for first place with Marshall (24-6, 13-4) for first place in the Sun Belt with one game left in the regular season. Southern Miss is at Texas State on Friday night, while Marshall is at Old Dominion.

Southern Miss has not won a regular-season conference championship since 2001. Its Conference USA title in the 2013-14 season was vacated because of NCAA sanctions.

The Sun Belt Conference tournament is Feb. 28 through March 6 in Pensacola, Florida. No matter what happens Friday, Southern Miss will be no worse than the No. 3 seed and will get a bye into the quarterfinals. Its first tournament game would be March 4.