Southern Miss’ basketball season ends with loss in Sun Belt Tournament

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, March 7, 2024

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Southern Miss’ men’s basketball team went one and done in the postseason.

Dontae Horne scored 20 points, Jordan Mason scored 18, and 11th-seeded Texas State ended Southern Miss’ season with a 75-59 loss in the second round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Thursday.

Southern Miss (16-16) lost its last three games and five of its last seven. It played in the NIT and won the Sun Belt regular-season title last season, but struggled to gain any momentum in the second half of this one as injuries and illness sapped the roster and the coaching staff. Head coach Jay Ladner was back on the bench for Thursday’s game after missing the previous month because of a heart-related medical emergency.

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“Two years ago we won seven ballgames. Now we’ve averaged 20, 21 wins the last two years. They’ve reversed the course of the program and for that I will forever be grateful for these young men and what they’ve done,” Ladner said. “It’s not easy to change the trajectory of a program, especially coming off a seven-win season, but they did it.”

Texas State (16-17) advanced to face No. 3 seed Troy in the quarterfinals Saturday at 5 p.m. There are no games scheduled on Friday.

Victor Hart finished with 20 points and nine rebounds for Southern Miss, Austin Crowley scored 16 points, and Andre Curbelo had 10 points and seven assists. The Golden Eagles only shot 34.6 percent in the first half, however, to dig a hole they never crawled out of.

Texas State led 34-23 at halftime, then started the second half with a 9-0 run. Dylan Dawson’s 3-pointer with 17:45 remaining put the Bobcats ahead 43-23.

Southern Miss whittled the deficit to 10 points, at 65-55 on a layup by Andre Curbelo with 1:57 to go. Texas State finished on an 8-2 run to prevent any sort of miracle comeback.

“It’s tough not capitalizing to the max. It’s tough not winning,” Southern Miss guard Mo Arnold said. “But I’m always going to be grateful for this opportunity. I know a lot of guys don’t get this opportunity and I’m grateful to Coach Lad.”