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Rice’s Late Run Too Much for Southern Miss in C-USA Opening Round

FRISCO, Texas — It was a game of runs all night to begin the 2021 C-USA Championships, but Rice’s 19-3 jolt to end the night led to a 61-52 defeat on Tuesday night.

“This last game is always tough,” head coach Jay Ladner said. “Only twice in my coaching career have I not lost the last game, and everyone does. The others are the same as tonight, and they’re especially tough for the seniors. It’s a hurt locker room.

“When a team is invested in what’s going on, it hurts you and your staff. A team or player that doesn’t care won’t be hurt. There are a lot of tears in there, and it makes me proud of our program. We just have to keep working to get better.”

The Owls (14-12, 6-10 C-USA) got a friendly roll on a top-of-the-key triple with 4:28 left, and the 52-49 advantage was their first since 17:18 of the half.

Southern Miss (8-17, 4-13 C-USA) went on an 11-0 run over 3:08, including a breakaway layup for DeAndre Pinckney, to force Rice into a timeout at 16:26. The 31-30 lead was Southern Miss’ first since 6:35, eventually rising to 49-43.

Rice, which led 27-20 at the half, was able to hit three consecutive fastbreak layups, the first off a rebound and the other two on steals, to force a Golden Eagle timeout at 2:46, leading 27-18. It was the capper on an 11-0 run.

“Rice was 0-6 when scoring 65 points or less, and I told our guys we would win this thing if we did that,” Ladner said. “We got them to 61 and we went the last six-plus minutes without a field goal, and to that point, we had everything going for us offensively. It reminded me of the FIU win in that second half. Rice called that timeout, and typically we had been in comeback situations. It was something we weren’t used to at that moment.”

Rice, which entered as the league’s second-best three-point shooting team, was 1-for-8 at the break before going 6-for-12 in the second. Southern Miss was led by three double-figure scorers in Pinckney (14), Tyler Stevenson (12) and Tae Hardy (11).

NOTABLE
-Southern Miss had won its previous two C-USA openers in Frisco (69-68 over FIU in 2018, 82-73 over Marshall in 2019).
LaDavius Draine finished his career with 1,131 points, good for No. 31 in school history, as well as second in three-pointers with 220.
-He also leaves as the single-season three-point record holder (46.4 percent as a sophomore).
Clay Weatherspoon, who earned his first start on Senior Day as well as making his first three-pointer those opening minutes, also gave five years to the program.
Tyler Stevenson’s 12 points give him 798 after his first three years.
-Freshman Mark Jaakson played nine minutes, one off a season-high set against Tulane in his debut.