TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands – Southern Miss (11-2) shot 60.9 percent over the final 20 minutes and turned a five-point halftime lead into a 74-60 win over UALR (4-7) in the finals of the BVI Tropical Shootout at the Multi-Purpose Complex on Saturday.
Trailing 33-28 at the halftime, UALR went inside to senior Will Neighbour for the first bucket of the second half to make it a three-point game. But that would be as close as the Trojans would get over the final 20 minutes, as the Southern Miss lead grew to six on an old fashioned three-point play two minutes later and ballooned to 10 on a free throw by Jerrold Brooks with 14:42 left to play.
Southern Miss’ lead grew as large as 22 on a trey by Neil Watson that made it 62-40 at the 9:08 mark. The Trojans were able to outscore the Golden Eagles by eight the rest of the way, capped by a DeVonte Smith trey with one second left on the clock.
Sophomore James White led UALR with a career-best matching 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting and five rebounds. Neighbour scored 12 points as the only other Trojan in double figures. Sophomore Josh Hagins scored nine while hitting 2 of 5 3-point shots and adding two steals.
In a first half that saw six ties and eight lead changes, UALR led by as many as five and was holding on to a one-point lead with 2:08 left in the half. The Trojans were unable to preserve the lead, however, as Southern Miss went inside for the final six points of the half to take a 33-28 lead into intermission.
UALR raced out to an 8-3 lead to start the game. White accounted for six of the Trojans’ first eight points on his way to finishing the half with 14 on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor.
After UALR held a lead for the majority of the opening 10 minutes, Southern Miss gained its first lead since the opening minutes on a layup by Deonte Houston that made it 17-16 at the 9:46 mark. A free throw by Hagins tied it on the next possession, but Southern Miss went up two on two free throws by Matt Bingaya the next trip down the floor.
Two free throws by Houston pushed USM’s lead to 23-20 with 5:23 left in the half before a trey by Hagins tied the game at 23-all. A jumper by Houston on the other end regained the lead for Southern Miss, but Hagins again had the answer, draining his second consecutive 3-pointer to give the Trojans a one-point lead. Two free throws by Daveon Boardingham gave Southern Miss a 27-26 lead with 3:20 left in the half before White’s free throws put the Trojans back up one at the 2:08 mark.
UALR shot 50 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes while limiting Southern Miss to just 36.7 percent shooting from the floor. The Golden Eagles were able to connect on 9 of 10 free throw attempts, however, and forced the Trojans into nine first-half turnovers.
UALR will have over a week of rest before it returns to action against Grambling at the Jack Stephens Center on Monday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.