Southern Miss Head Coach Jay Ladner talks with Forward Felipe Haase (22) during a first half timeout of an NCAA basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022 in Hattiesburg, Miss. (Aimee Cronan/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

Gazebo Gazette

Eagle Fever is back, baby. The Southern Miss men’s basketball team brought home an 82-71 win over Louisiana on Thursday night in front of the fifth-largest crowd in Reed Green Coliseum history. The win also gave Southern Miss sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt standings with five games left.

The Golden Eagles fed off the 8,097 from start to finish against the Ragin’ Cajuns. The roof nearly popped off less than two minutes into the game when DeAndre Pinckney and Austin Crowley drained back-to-back three-pointers.

For as loud as The Greenhouse got, Louisiana was able to quiet the crowd for a sizable chunk of the first half. Neither team sustained a lead larger than two until the Ragin’ Cajuns went on a two-minute, 10-0 run to take a 10-point lead with five minutes to go in the opening frame.

Neftali Alvarez made his presence known down the stretch in the first half as the Puerto Rican guard scored seven points to slice into the Louisiana advantage. Donovan Ivory got a 7-0 run started that cut the deficit to three, but Themus Folks beat the buzzer by one second to give Louisiana a 38-33 lead at the half.

Fortunately, Southern Miss put the first half in the rearview mirror rather quickly. Austin Crowley started to heat up as the West Point native drained a three-pointer to make it a four-point game 40 seconds into the half.

The Golden Eagles tied the game moments later, but the Ragin’ Cajuns answered with a run of their own to slash any Southern Miss momentum. Felipe Haase, who went for 17 points, released a dart from beyond the arc that got the Coliseum rocking. Then, Pinckney answered a Jordan Brown basket with a trey to give the Golden Eagles their first lead in over 15 minutes.

Haase added to the lead with an and-one before yelling his patented ‘BOOM’ after a three-pointer. His triple gave Southern Miss a six-point lead with 12 minutes left. The Golden Eagle advantage floated around five points until Pinckney and Ivory scored on back-to-back plays to put Southern Miss up 10.

The lead eventually built to 11 and then remained at 11 when the final buzzer sounded. Alvarez had a career-night as a Golden Eagle, going for a season-high 17 points. He also added four assists and two steals.
Pinckney went for 22 points and six rebounds exactly one year after he played in a game in front of less than 3,000 fans. Crowley finished with 13 points and hit two of Southern Miss’ seven three-pointers.Tyler Morman came off the bench and provided massive minutes for the Golden Eagles. The senior swatted three Ragin’ Cajun shot attempts and finished with two points in 15 minutes. Most notably, Morman went into a full dive along the sideline to keep a ball in play – the play got the Reed Green faithful up and yelling.

Ivory added seven points and five rebounds to help Southern Miss outscore the Louisiana bench, 26-11. The Black and Gold shot a sizzling 61.5 percent from the floor in the second half and went 5-of-8 from deep over the final 20 minutes.