Southern Miss Guard Tae Hardy wasted no time getting his junior campaign off to a solid start as he dropped 30 points in Southern Miss’ 81-67 win against William Carey on Tuesday night to claim the Mayor’s Cup. The Golden Eagles gave Jay Ladner his second season-opening win as the head coach of his alma mater.
“We’re going to be a team that applies pressure on both ends and we’re going to expect guys to get out there for two- or four-minute spurts,” Ladner said. “There’s a necessity to play those 13 guys that were [healthy] enough to get in. I’m just upset we didn’t get them in there more.”
Ladner; a former Pass Christian resident, is in his third year with the USM Golden Eagles after a successful coaching career at SE Louisiana, Jones County Junior College and over 20 years at the high school level. His team at Jones County won the only junior college national championship in Mississippi history and led the St. Stanislaus basketball program to ten state tournament appearances; winning one MHSAA state title in 2010.
USM forward Tyler Stevenson scored the first points of the season on a jumper in the paint and then Southern Miss rattled off eight more points to build a 10-0 lead three minutes into the game. The Golden Eagles didn’t let off the gas pedal as they climbed to a 24-2 lead near the midway point of the first half. Freshman Rashad Bolden took to the spotlight in his first outing with the Golden Eagles and poured in 10 points in the first half to go along with an assist.
Southern Miss held onto its 30-point halftime lead for the first five minutes of the second half, but the Crusaders made a push to cut the deficit to 14 with just under 10 minutes to play. William Carey later cut the Golden Eagles’ lead to 11 with 3:41 to play, but a two-minute scoring drought from the Crusaders ultimately proved to be the difference. Southern Miss would score in bunches during that stretch to pull ahead and eventually hold on for the 81-67 win.
Hardy has now scored 30 points in two of his last three games dating back to last season after scoring 32 points against FAU in the final regular season game of the 2020-21 season. Jaron Pierre Jr. added 16 points in 22 minutes while going 4-of-9 from behind the three-point line. Isaih Moore and Rashad Bolden combined for 23 points in their Southern Miss debut. Moore recorded a double-double as the Columbia, S.C. native grabbed 11 boards to go along with 10 points.
The win was the sixth-straight home-opening win for the Golden Eagles and the second consecutive against William Carey.