Southern Miss Forward Victor Hart (2) goes up to make an attempt to score against two Northwestern State defenders during the second half of an NCAA College Basketball game Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023 in Hattiesburg, Miss. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/Owner – thegazebogazette@gmail.com or hdawkins@supertalk.fm

The Southern Miss men’s basketball team has now won three games in a row after beating Northwestern State (La.) 83-74 on Saturday.

Forwards Victor Iwuakor and Cobie Montgomery combined for 35 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes each to help Southern Miss (5-4) hold off a second-half comeback effort from the Demons (1-8). After the Golden Eagles’ lead was cut to just two following a 15-0 run by Northwestern State, the two big men hammered down back-to-back dunks to push the momentum back in favor of the black and gold.

“I’ve said it a million times that it’s hard to win Division I games,” Southern Miss Coach, former Pass Christian resident and St. Stanislaus Basketball Coach Jay Ladner said. “Northwestern State was better than their record and (Cliff) Davis ended up with 24 against us. It’s just going to take this team a little longer to get where we need to get.”

Allowing 14 turnovers and shooting 5-19 from beyond the arc was not the offense Ladner hoped for, but Southern Miss was able to hold off Davis and company as Donovan Ivory drained a pair of free throws to seal the nine-point win. The Golden Eagles outrebounded the Demons 40-26.

Austin Crowley, the Sun Belt preseason player of the year, had 10 points and seven assists while Ivory finished with 13 points and five rebounds, Victor Hart ended his afternoon with 17 points and 12 rebounds to pick up his second career double-double.

While the offense shot 49.2 percent from the floor, including a 60 percent mark in the second half, it was the Golden Eagle defense that could not stop the three-point shot. Northwestern State hit 11 threes, eight of which came in the final period of play.

Southern Miss will begin a four-game road swing on Wednesday as the team travels to McNeese State followed by matchups with Lamar (Dec. 18), Ole Miss (Dec. 23 in Biloxi), and Georgia Southern (Dec. 30).