The Southern Miss men’s basketball team is one win away from playing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Eagles pulled away late to take down Marshall 82-73 Thursday night in Frisco, Texas to advance to the Conference USA tournament semifinals on Friday.
Southern Miss (20-11) will play Western Kentucky (19-13) at 3 p.m. on Friday in a semifinal contest that will decide which team advances to play in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game.
The other semifinal game, Old Dominion-UAB, and will be played at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
All remaining C-USA tournament games will be shown on CBS Sports Network.
WKU won both of the games over the Golden Eagles this season, 66-63 in Hattiesburg on Jan. 24 and 76-71 on March 3 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
With Thursday night’s victory, USM will put its first 20-win season in the record book since the Golden Eagles finished 25-9 and made the NCAA Tournament in former coach Larry Eustachy’s final season in 2011-12. The Eagles cleared 20 wins in both of Donnie Tyndall’s seasons from 2012-14, but all of those wins were later vacated under NCAA sanctions.
Marshall held the lead for a 5-minute stretch midway through the second half before USM’s LaDavius Draine hit a 3-pointer with 4:29 remaining to take a 68-65 lead.
The Golden Eagles never trailed from that point forward, outscoring the Thundering Herd 19-8 in the final 6 minutes of action.
Both teams shot exceptionally well from behind the 3-point arc. Marshall hit 17 of 37 tries and USM converted on 10 of 19.
Sophomore LaDavius Draine again led USM in that area, hitting 6-of-8 attempts to finish with a total of 20 points.
USM senior point guard Tyree Griffin led all scorers with 23 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing eight rebounds.
Leonard Harper-Baker had another nice night against the Herd, scoring 16 and pulling down nine rebounds.
Jannson Williams started out hot from the field for Marshall (19-14) and led the Herd with 22 points.
Marshall senior Jon Elmore scored 18 points and handed out 11 assists in his final game as a member of the Thundering Herd.
“That was a heck of a basketball game. Both teams played so hard and made shots. I can’t say enough (about Marshall). That was a great finish. Our guys are tough. We got down six or seven and we just kept churning. That’s what seniors are supposed to do and that’s what they did.” — USM coach Doc Sadler