Rice pulls away late for 86-75 win over Southern Miss in C-USA Championships
Back-and-forth battle unkind to Golden Eagles
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Southern Miss found itself down just 68-67 with 6:25 to play, but the No. 5-seeded Rice Owls scored all 18 of its remaining points from the free-throw line to fend off the Golden Eagles, 86-75, in the first round of the C-USA Basketball Championships presented by MetroPCS.
“The transition baskets and free-throw line was the big difference,” head coach Doc Sadler said. “They scored 29 of their points at the line, and that’s hard to make up. I thought our guys competed. We weren’t satisfied with finally getting here. We really wanted to win.”
There were 13 lead changes and eight ties in the game.
The Feb. 23 meeting between the teams in Houston also saw Southern Miss hold Rice without a field goal for the final 7:24 in regulation, allowing for an 18-point rally into overtime.
Marcus Evans made two free-throws to give Rice its first double-digit lead of the day, 77-67, with 3:20 left, but Quinton Campbell would not let it get to him with a three-pointer on the following possession. The Owls went down and went 1-for-2 at the foul line, their first miss of the day, but Southern Miss was unable to get any closer from there.
Each team made three consecutive field goals for a 47-47 score at the first media timeout of the second half (14:41). Cortez Edwards fueled the spark early on with a banked three-pointer and contested jumper after Southern Miss went down 44-40.
Rice closed the first half on a 11-2 run to lead 37-35 at halftime.
Southern Miss weathered a 17-6 Rice run and went up 30-23 with 4:56 left after Edwards drew a three-point play. Evans made a three-pointer with four minutes left that snapped a 5:07 scoring drought, and Edwards made another layup for a 32-26 advantage.
Southern Miss jumped out to a 14-4 lead, helped by back-to-back triples from Campbell and Michael Ramey, but the Owls clawed back and took a 21-20 lead on Marcus Jackson’s three-pointer prior to a media timeout at the 10:11 mark.
“We are disappointed in the outcome, but as I told the team in the locker room, those three guys, Quinton, Michael and Raheem, they helped us build our program into getting here, and with that I’m real excited for the next year," Sadler said.
The Golden Eagles conclude their season 9-22, but the six league wins marked the second consecutive season of improvement in that category. It was the program’s first trip to the C-USA Championship stage since a two-year postseason ban from rules violations committed from 2012-14.
-Southern Miss fell to 3-2 as a double-digit seed in its C-USA Championship history.
-Cortez Edwards’ eight assists tied a season-high for any Golden Eagle, as well as a personal career-high.
-He and Quinton Campbell gave Southern Miss its first pair of 20-point scorers since Campbell and Khari Price did so against UTSA on Jan. 5.
-Wednesday marked the eighth-career 20-point game for Campbell, while it was the third for Edwards.
-Michael Ramey scored 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in his final collegiate game.
-The Golden Eagles’ 10 steals marked the fourth time they have done so all year.
-Southern Miss had more assists than turnovers in eight of its final 10 games.
-The Golden Eagles shot 14-for-16 from the free-throw line (.875), its fifth time in the final six games shooting over 80 percent.
-Southern Miss had a 32-12 advantage on points in the paint.