(Photos by Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette & Joe Harper/USM)

by Hunter Dawkins

Despite facing an NAIA opponent in their first home game of the 2020-21 regular season, the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (USM) Men’s Basketball Coach and former Pass Christian resident Jay Ladner took it seriously against cross-town rival; William Carey Crusaders, by winning their first regular season game 80-53 at Reed Green Coliseum Wednesday night.

“William Carey Crusaders are always a tough game and I thought they played well,” said USM Coach Ladner.  “They shot the ball well and Coach (Steve) Knight is a Hall of Fame coach and one of the greatest coaches this state ever produced.”

USM Forward Tyler Stevenson matched a career-high 27 points on 11-for-13 shooting, with three additional players adding double digits.  Southern Miss only trailed in the opening minute and led 39-24 at the break.

Southern Miss (1-1) also scored 10-straight points to lead 68-44 with 5:08 to play to help seal the deal.

“Overall, I was proud of our team and I really like what I saw at times,” expressed Ladner, entering into his second season.  “We’ve got to get a lot better before we head to Fogelman next week.”

The next game for Southern Miss is Wednesday against Tulane University in New Orleans at Fogelman Arena.