Southern Miss

Southern Miss just stunned C-USA champ ODU. Is Doc Sadler C-USA’s Coach of the Year?

After dealing with tough luck in back-to-back losses, the Southern Miss men’s basketball team came up with its most impressive win of the season on Wednesday night at Old Dominion.

USM toppled the Conference USA regular season champions 59-52 in Norfolk, Virginia, behind a game high of 18 points from sophomore guard LaDavius Draine.

The victory provided a significant boost to USM coach Doc Sadler’s chances of being selected as the C-USA Coach of the Year. USM sits at 18-11 overall and 10-7 in C-USA play with a good shot at earning a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament, which will take place March 13-16 in Frisco, Texas.

The Golden Eagles can assure themselves of a first-round bye with a win over UTSA in Saturday’s 2 p.m. regular season finale in Hattiesburg. USM can still get the bye with a loss if ODU wins at UAB on Saturday.

Sadler’s best competition for Coach of the Year is likely the man he beat Wednesday night, ODU’s Jeff Jones. The two teams split the two games they played this season, but both were played in Norfolk. ODU won the previous game 76-62 on Jan. 19.

WKU coach Rick Stansbury doesn’t seem like a likely choice for Coach of the Year considering he has a 5-star recruit in the frontcourt in Charles Bassey and the team has been inconsistent in league play. The Hilltoppers (18-13, 11-7) lost 81-76 in overtime to UTSA in Bowling Green on Wednesday.

UTSA coach Steve Henson could get some votes for Coach of the Year, but Sadler’s USM squad can earn a sweep of the Roadrunners (17-13, 11-6) with a win on Saturday in Hattiesburg.

The Eagles’ current standing is made all the more impressive considering they are still dealing with the lingering effects of NCAA sanctions from Donnie Tyndall’s tenure as head coach from 2012-14. USM is still one scholarship player shy of the NCAA limit of 13.

Wednesday’s win marked the second consecutive season that USM has stunned the C-USA regular season champion after the Golden Eagles beat Middle Tennessee 71-68 in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament a year ago.

Much like USM did to the Blue Raiders in 2018, the Eagles likely ended Old Dominion’s chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. ODU (23-7, 13-4) clinched the C-USA regular season title a week ago and has one of the league’s most impressive non-conference victories after winning 68-62 at Syracuse on Dec. 15.

Draine was again USM’s best outside shooting threat, nailing 4-of-8 3-pointers. The rest of the team was 1-of-9 behind the arc on Wednesday.

USM senior point guard Tyree Griffin overcame six turnovers to put together a strong night, scoring 16 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing five rebounds.

Another USM senior, Cortez Edwards, put a bumpy showing at WKU in the past by putting up 11 points and tracking down four rebounds.

USM’s biggest basket of the night came when Griffin tracked toward the basket and offered a perfect pass to Edwards, who was streaking down the lane, for a slam dunk with 43 seconds remaining to give USM a 57-52 lead.

Southern Miss outscored ODU 16-7 in the final 6 minutes to erase a 45-43 deficit.

USM put together a strong defensive effort, limiting ODU to a 17-of-50 night from the field and forcing 14 turnovers.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.