Back-breaking loss after loss, one could be forgiven for expecting the worse as Southern Miss closed the deficit against MTSU Saturday night in the Murphy Center.
Eleven consecutive losses, many by the tightest of margins, had soured many of the onlooking spectators’ outlook as LaDavius Draine sunk a game-tying three-pointer with eleven seconds remaining to knot the score at 63-all.
One possession to break a run that had extended for almost two months and to win a game against a Division-I opponent for the first time since the second game of the season.
Leave it to the hardwood’s Mayor of Murfreesboro to save the day for the Blue Raiders and keep MTSU alive in the hunt for a Conference USA Tournament berth.
Donovan Sims knocked down two clutch free throws with over a second left to push MTSU (5-16, 1-7 C-USA) past Southern Miss (6-15, 2-6 C-USA) 65-63.
Sims’ drive forced a foul out of Southern Miss’s Boban Jacdonmi, setting up the two makes from the charity stripe. After the timeout, the final Hail Mary from the Eagles instead ended up in the possession of Jayce Johnson to end the game and the losing skid.
While Sims struggled shooting from the floor, his 13 points was second-highest on the team thanks in part to seven free throws.
MTSU took the advantage at the beginning of the second half and extended its lead to as high as ten points, but once again found itself cold as ice down the stretch allowing Southern Miss to dig into the deficit.
The Blue Raiders ended the contest making one of its last nine shots from the field, but were lifted to victory by another solid performance at the line after struggling in previous games. MTSU made 22 of its 28 attempts, while USM finished with 15 makes on 18 attempts.
Southern Miss’s struggles started with its guard duo of Gabe Watson and LaDavius Draine shooting a combined 8-for-27 from the field. MTSU’s eleven steals poured on the pain for an Eagles offense that was off its game in the Murphy Center.
C.J. Jones again had the team lead in points scored with 17. Tyler Stevenson led Southern Miss with 17 points of his own.
MTSU hits the road for a two-game trip to Texas first against UTEP Thursday night and then UTSA Saturday afternoon. Both matchups present a roadmap for the Blue Raiders hopes at earning a bid for the conference tournament in Frisco in March.
The meeting with UTEP will air on ESPN+ and tip-off at 8:00 p.m.