Southern Miss’ Ladner, Crowley bring home Sun Belt awards

Published 5:02 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

NEW ORLEANS — Southern Miss’ men’s basketball team had one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA history this season, which made its architect an easy choice for the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year award.

Southern Miss head coach Jay Ladner earned the honor Monday in voting by the Sun Belt’s 14 head coaches. Three Southern Miss players also were named to the all-Conference team.

Southern Miss was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team Sun Belt in the preseason after going 7-26 last season. The Golden Eagles, however, have a 25-6 record and won the Sun Belt’s regular-season championship.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The 18-win swing is two shy of tying the record for the best turnaround in NCAA Division I history that Iowa State set last season. Southern Miss has also set numerous records under Ladner’s tutelage this season.

The 25 wins are tied for the most in Southern Miss’ Division I era and four shy of tying the school record. Ladner’s team also went 15-0 at Reed Green Coliseum to tie the 2011-12 team for the best home winning percentage in program history.

Ladner is the first USM coach to earn conference coach of the year honors since Larry Eustachy in 2012.

Several of Ladner’s players also received recognition from the Sun Belt.

Junior guard Austin Crowley was named the league’s Newcomer of the Year after finishing the regular season as Southern Miss’ leading scorer. The Ole Miss transfer is averaging 16.2 points per game and has a team-leading 61 steals. The West Point product scored 20-plus points 10 times and finished in double figures in 24 games.

Crowley also picked up first team All-Sun Belt honors.

Graduate forward Felipe Haase was named second team All-Sun Belt, while senior forward DeAndre Pinckney earned third team honors. It’s the first time since the 1987-88 season that three Golden Eagles were on all-conference teams.

Haase is averaging 15.2 points per game and has dished out 94 assists so far. Pinckney is averaging 13.2 points per game and 14.4 points per game in Sun Belt play. The Florida native averaged a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game in league play.

The Sun Belt Conference tournament begins Tuesday in Pensacola, Florida.

Southern Miss received a bye into the quarterfinals for winning the Sun Belt regular-season title, and won’t play until Saturday at 11:30 a.m. against either South Alabama or Appalachian State.