Cougars upset conference leader Southern Miss
In a back-and-forth game of runs, the Cougars were able to make the last one and steal a 73-71 win from first-place Southern Miss.
“We stayed together as a team, stayed positive and were ready to take on the challenge,” junior Jonathan Simmons said. “Basketball is a game of runs and we were prepared for that.”
The Cougars closed out the first half on a 10-0 run on Saturday night at Hofheinz Pavilion to go into halftime with a 38-27 lead.
Simmons helped the Cougars build that lead, scoring 15 of his career-high 28 points in the first half.
However, that momentum didn’t last long, as Southern Miss opened the second half with a 12-5 run and took the lead with nine minutes remaining.
The Cougars rebounding and interior defense led by freshman TaShawn Thomas allowed them to take the lead back for good with six minutes to go.
“All week the coaches were saying to go strong to the boards,” said Thomas, who recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 11 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
“I knew they would be doing everything they could to rebound, so I just played strong and went for the ball.”
Winning the battle on the boards (39-28) helped the Cougars overcome committing 16 turnovers.
“Coach Dickey did not call any fouls at practice because he was preparing us for Southern Miss,” Thomas said. “The hard practices throughout the week helped us play strong and tough for tonight.”
A 3-pointer by The Golden Eagles’ Neil Watson brought Southern Miss with three points with three seconds to go, but clutch free throws by freshman Joseph Young sealed the win for the Cougars.
Young (10 points) was one of four Cougars to score in double figures along with Simmons, Thomas and Alandise Harris.