Southern Miss’s men’s basketball team lost the luck of love on Valentine’s Day, falling to a seven-game losing streak against Western Kentucky 87-77.
Despite out rebounding the Hilltoppers and impressive individual efforts from Isaih Moore, Walyn Napper and DeAndre Pinckney, the Golden Eagles could not overcome late turnovers and the worldly shooting of WKU.
Graduate assistant-to-sharpshooter in one last year of eligibility, Camron Justice made the defense pay for any defensive slack. He finished with twenty-four points and hit home six threes.
“Every time it came off his hand – even the few that he missed – I thought they looked good,” Head Coach Jay Ladner said.
Among the highlights was a momentum-swinging three-point shot to take a five-point lead, forcing a timeout with 7:09 left in the game.
Justice started off the game as well as he finished. He and center Jamarion Sharp scored the first seventeen points in seven minutes for WKU – Justice hammered home three-three pointers and a pair of lob passes to Sharp, while Sharp swatted back two shots on defense.
Moore responded for the Golden Eagles. Moore challenged WKU’s defense, giving putback slams and contesting lob passes.
Southern Miss came back from a deficit as large as nine points, forcing a tied game through a free throw with 5:03 left in the first half.
Moore found himself matched with Sharp at times, who proved to be a defensive force for the Hilltoppers.
The seven-foot-five center tallied four blocked shots and six rebounds in the first half alone. Sharp finished the game with six blocks and nine rebounds.
“It’s basketball at the end of the day, but definitely [I had] more of a little edge playing somebody that tall because I’m usually about the tallest person on the court with somebody else my height,” Moore said.
Moore’s performance of 25 points and 12 rebounds seemed infectious to his teammate’s feel on the game, specifically Southern Miss guard Walyn Napper.
On top of scoring an and-one and finishing several layups, the point guard facilitated eleven assists, performing his best late in the second half. Napper connected with Moore on two lobs in crunch time.
Other contributions came from Tyler Stevenson with 14 points and Jaron Pierre, Jr. who responded from a scoreless performance against UAB with three-three pointers in the first half.
Bounce backs such as this will define the rest of the season for the team.
Ladner emphasized wanting the team to finish strong, especially with the opportunity to play the next five of seven games at home. The Golden Eagles have only played four home games between November and February.Catch the men’s basketball team’s next game at Reed Green Coliseum against conference rival UTSA this Thursday on February 17th.