Before Neil Watson hit the game-winning shot against Marshall Friday night, he'd already put together a stellar career at Southern Miss. He is now putting himself among the best guards to ever suit up for the Golden Eagles.
Watson's career averages of 11.3 points, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals don't grab your attention as outstanding numbers, but his impact on the program is undeniable.
USM is 72-22 since Watson transferred to Southern Miss from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College for the 2011-12 season. He started his career at Toledo, but a coaching change left Watson looking for a better fit.
When Larry Eustachy left Southern Miss after the 2011-12 season for Colorado State, Watson again seriously considered transferring.
USM fans have to be thanking their lucky stars that he chose to stay on under Eustachy's replacement, Donnie Tyndall.
Watson has twice saved USM's chances at an NCAA Tournament at-large bid this season with late 3-pointers near the end of regulation against Georgia State and Marshall.
The Golden Eagles played one of their worst games of the season Friday night before Watson hit a long 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining to gain a 58-57 lead. With Aaron Brown's two free throws, USM pulled off a 60-57 victory over Marshall that seemed highly unlikely for much of the night.
In the 2011-12 season, Watson hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left at the end of regulation to force overtime against Tulsa to avoid a bad home loss. USM won that game, 77-69.
He is living up to the fan-given nickname of "Big Shot" Watson.
Watson fits whatever role USM has needed the last three years - ball distributor, shut-down defender, top scorer and go-to man when the game is on the line.
This all comes from a guard who is listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, and he may not be that tall or weigh that much.
Watson's career record run of 51 consecutive free throws came to an end Friday, but his free throw percentage of 93.7 this season is good enough for second in the nation.
When you're talking about the best guards in USM history, Casey Fisher and Darrin Chancellor - two of former coach M.K. Turk's best players instantly come to mind.
Guard Nick Revon is the program's all-time leading scorer with 2,136, but he played from 1950-54 prior to USM joining Division I in 1972.
Fisher was the point guard on the 1987 NIT title squad with career averages of 13.2 points and 5.1 assists.
Chancellor is one of USM's top scoring guards of all-time, with a career average of 15.6 points. He hit 40.3 percent of his 3-point attempts and was a major part of USM's first two NCAA Tournament squads in 1990 and 1991.
In Watson's first year, he was the leading scorer on the program's first NCAA Tournament squad since 1991.
Last year, Watson deferred more to Dwayne Davis when it came to scoring, but he was just as important to the team's success with averages of 9.8 points and a team high 4.9 assists.
While this year's squad may be the most balanced Watson has played on, he's the team's leader with 12.3 points and 4.4 assists a game.
USM (20-3, 7-1) hosts Charlotte (14-8, 5-4) at 1 p.m. today in a game that's crucial for the team to stay on track for a Conference USA regular season title.
Contact Patrick Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org