USM begins postseason play in Virginia on Wednesday

By FROM SOUTHERN MISS,

FARMVILLE, Va. -- The Southern Miss men's basketball team has arrived in the Commonwealth State to prepare for its Roman College Basketball Invitational opener with Longwood. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday night.

Video streaming will be available on ESPN Plus, while John Cox has the call on the Southern Miss Learfield IMG College network (Rock 104.5 in Hattiesburg/Laurel) and the USM Gameday app.

– Southern Miss is making its first postseason appearance of the Doc Sadler era and seventh since 2001. This is the program’s first trip to the CBI. The Golden Eagles, still under NCAA sanctions from the vacated 2012-14 seasons, have won 36 games the last two years, each time making the Conference USA semifinals and defeating the defending champ in the process. Southern Miss was just the third team in the last decade (UTEP, 2017 and Marshall, 2010) to earn a bye in the league tourney.

– Southern Miss defeated Marshall in the quarterfinals despite 17 three-pointers by the Herd. The Golden Eagles were just the 71st team since the 2010-11 season out of 431 to win with such an allowance (per sports-reference.com). WKU was too much in the semifinals, winning the rebound battle 44-27 and ultimately pull away in the final minutes.

– This is the Golden Eagles first-ever matchup with Longwood and the third trip to Virginia this year, both at Old Dominion. The Black and Gold have led at the half in 12 consecutive games. Southern Miss is also one of three schools (Florida A&M, Saint Louis) to have a perfect league-win improvement in each of the last five years (page 4).

– The two-headed monster of Cortez Edwards and Tyree Griffin have combined for 27.4 points, 10.5 assists, 9.8 rebounds this season. In the past two years, they have combined for four of the top-five steals seasons in program history. Griffin’s 427 career assists in two years puts him No. 3 all-time at the school and owning two of the top-three dime years in school history (more info on all school records: page 8).

– LaDavius Draine is USM’s first Sixth-Player of the Year since Neil Watson in 2011-12, and his 77 triples are No. 6 in single-season school history and four away from overtaking sole possession from No. 4. He was 8-for-14 in the C-USA Tourney, including 6-for-8 (career-high 33 minutes) against Marshall His 48.6 percent clip in C-USA play trailed only teammate Kevin Holland. He has 34 more three-pointers than any other sophomore at USM, and his 47.5 percentage currently bests Casey Fisher (46.3 in 1987-88) for the best single-season deep clip at the school.

– Edwards has another opportunity to continue building his record-book legacy. He is the only player in Southern Miss history to rank in the top-20 for scoring (1,394 points), top-15 for rebounds (633) and top-10 for assists (365), all while having a school-record 199 steals. His 68 swipes this year rank only behind his 71 last year for the school record.

– Holland was named to the C-USA’s All-Academic team (3.77 GPA in Sport Management grad program). His 108 starts (all consecutive) rank fifth all-time. His 51.9 percent clip in C-USA play was tops in the league, and his 135 career makes are also eighth all-time at the school.

– Leonard Harper-Baker was shooting 41.9 percent (18-for-43) at the foul line before going 8-for-12 in a clutch win over UAB on Jan. 12. That game begun what has now amounted to a 75.5 percent stretch (37-for-49). In C-USA play, he was third for both shooting (58.2 percent) and rebounding (8.9 per game). His 8.1 rebounds per game leads the team.

– Southern Miss is one of six schools nationally to have not allowed 80 points in a game. It happened to the Golden Eagles eight times in each of the last two seasons, and this current 31-game streak is its best since Dec. 28, 2006 - Jan. 16, 2008. Through Thursday, the team ranked No. 5 nationally for assist-turnover ratio (1.60) and No. 19 for fewest turnovers (10.6 pg). In league play, the Golden Eagles ranked first in field goal percentage (47.8), three-point shooting (41.2) and assists (16.5) and FG defense (40.4) and while sitting third in steals (7.8).

– Griffin against C-USA opponents was first in assists (7.6), second in assist-turnover ratio (2.6) and fourth in steals (2.1), while Edwards sat ninth in assists (4.0) and third for assist/turnover ratio (2.5) and third in steals (2.2). Griffin enters postseason play No. 5 nationally in assists per game. They are the only teammates to be in the top-14 for assist/turnover ratio in league play. They each earned All-Conference honors (second-team), the first honorees since Chip Armelin in 2014-15.