Southern Miss Set for Two-Game Trip to San Antonio
Published 7:00 am Friday, January 22, 2021
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Southern Miss Men’s Basketball has set out for another C-USA challenge, this time taking on UTSA Friday (6 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m.) in the Lone Star State.
Streaming: CUSA.tv Friday with Andy Everett, ESPN+ Saturday with Lincoln Rose and Jim Haller
Radio: Southern Miss Learfield IMG Sports Network (Rock 104.5 in Hattiesburg/Laurel) and Gameday app with John Cox
Last weekend’s sweep of Middle Tennessee featured an 84-54 win on Friday, the team’s largest C-USA margin of victory since the 2018-19 home finale against UTSA (81-48), and a 64-59 edging Saturday. In the latter contest, Southern Miss led most of the way and took the lead for good at 2:56. Tyler Stevenson’s put-back slam at 1:46 for a 57-53 lead was the spiritual lift for the team in the final stretch.
The Last Meeting
When the two teams met last year at the same site, Southern Miss trailed by 11 early in the second half and pulled within 57-54 at 6:28, but was unable to get any further. The Golden Eagles were 17-for-20 at the foul line, but only 3-for-14 from deep while the Roadrunners were scorching at 15-for-27.
The Series and Opponent
The home team has won all 12 meetings in this series. The Golden Eagles’ aforementioned Hattiesburg rout in March 2019 remains the potent Roadrunners’ lowest-scoring game over their past 126 outings. UTSA again boasts four-year studs Jhivvan Jackson (18.8 ppg) and Keaton Wallace (14.4 ppg), who are first and seventh nationally among active scorers.
The Rookie Strikes Again
Jaron Pierre Jr. earned his third C-USA Freshman of the Week honor, averaging 16 ppg and 9.5 rpg against the Blue Raiders. He posted his second double-double Friday (24 points, 10 rebounds) in which he was 9-for-11 from the field and 6-for-8 from deep. All eight of his Saturday points came in the second half, including a crucial steal late and going 4-for-4 at the line in the final 26 seconds. He is averaging 11.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg in league play, shooting 52.2 percent overall (and 55.6 from deep, 78.6 on free-throws).
Only eight players have appeared in each C-USA game for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are also averaging a league-low 12.2 three-point attempts per game in C-USA play, while UTSA is second with 27.3 per contest. While the quantity of makes isn’t high, Southern Miss ranks second in league play with a 39.7-percent rate from deep. Stevenson leads the team in league scoring (16.5 ppg), shooting (52.7 percent), rebounding (6.5) and minutes (35.8 mpg). He was averaging 10.0 ppg in non-conference.
All of Southern Miss’ wins have come when leading at the half, while six of the year’s victories have come when out-shooting the opponent. The Golden Eagles are 28th nationally in defensive scoring (62.1 ppg) after being No. 260 last year (72.3). They have done a good job at weathering teams on their home court, holding them to 39.8-percent shooting in road bouts. Southern Miss also forced 31 turnovers against Middle Tennessee after just 17 the previous three games.
Tae’s Trending Up
Tae Hardy has heated up lately. His 18 points Saturday were a career-high, and he is also fifth in C-USA with an 82.5 percent clip at the foul line. He started the year 3-for-8 and is 27-for-32 since. Between his defensive skillset and intangible leadership that transcends the box score, the former Pearl River CC All-American has also drastically improved his non-conference/league shooting splits (36.5 and 48 percent).
Crashing the Boards
Rebounding has been a key strength. Southern Miss boasts a plus-4.1 margin, which is third in C-USA. For reference, last year’s team was plus-1.7. Stevenson is fourth in C-USA with 7.2 rpg, and 13 of the 16 wins under Jay Ladner have come when winning that stat. DeAndre Pinckney has three games of eight-plus rebounds since re-entering the rotation six games ago while starting the last three.
Bizarre Travel Fact
Due to COVID-19 canceling some trips, this is the team’s first flight of the year, making it the latest its flown the friendly skies since the 1973-74 season. That squad played at Georgia Tech on Jan. 31, followed by Utah State and Denver (Feb. 2-4).