Short-handed Southern Miss finds a way against Arkansas State

Published 11:35 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2024

HATTIESBURG — Playing short-handed didn’t stop Southern Miss from taking down another Sun Belt Conference opponent in Reed Green Coliseum.

Austin Crowley scored 25 points, Victor Iwuakor had a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, and Southern Miss defeated Arkansas State 69-66 on Wednesday.

Southern Miss improved to 12-0 at home against Sun Belt opponents since joining the league in 2022. It beat Arkansas State despite missing starters Victor Hart and Andre Curbelo, as well as key reserve Tegra Izay, and only having seven players available.

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Three USM players scored in double figures, two grabbed 10-plus rebounds, and two others finished with at least seven rebounds. Donovan Ivory had 15 points and eight rebounds, while Mo Arnold totaled eight points and 11 rebounds for the Golden Eagles (10-8, 4-2 Sun Belt).

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as proud of a team considering the circumstances,” Southern Miss coach Jay Ladner said. “It’s amazing how gritty our guys were tonight. That was as gritty of an effort as any team that I’ve ever been involved with.”

Iwuakor’s six blocks were a career-high, but his biggest moment was a high-arching three-pointer with 7:29 to play. The shot capped the Golden Eagles’ comeback from a nine-point deficit and gave them their first lead of the second half, at 57-56.

The teams traded the lead four more times coming down the stretch, with the last change coming on Crowley’s jumper in the paint with 54 seconds to go to put Southern Miss ahead 66-65. He added a free throw with 14 seconds to go and Iwuakor made two with three seconds left for the final 69-66 margin.

Arkansas State did not make a field goal after Avery Felts’ 3-pointer with 3:12 remaining gave it a 65-62 lead. It missed its last four shots.

Caleb Fields led the Red Wolves (7-11, 3-3) in scoring, with 16 points and nine assists. Arkansas State also got 13 points from Taryn Todd and 11 from Derrian Ford.

Southern Miss won despite shooting 35.4 percent from the floor overall and 7-for-23 from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles went 16-for-21 from the free throw line, including 13-for-16 in the second half.

The Golden Eagles will play at home again Saturday afternoon, vs. Troy at 2:30 p.m. The game will follow Southern Miss’ women’s game against Louisiana-Monroe at noon. Both games will stream on ESPN+.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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