Troy and South Alabama each opened up Sun Belt Conference men’s basketball play on Thursday night with road losses.
Southern Miss 64, Troy 60: The Trojans' late comeback came up short against perhaps the hottest team in the conference. Troy trailed, 26-23, at halftime but fell into a double-digit hole in the second half.
“They just got us so out of rhythm in the first half,” said Troy head coach Scott Cross. “They did their 2-2-1 zone to match up against us, and they are really good at it. We worked so hard these past few days on defense, and there were some improvements tonight. We played good enough defensively to get the win.”
Troy (8-6 overall) had just two assists with 11 turnovers against the zone defense in the first half. Southern Miss (12-2 overall) opened the second half with a 10-2 run to take the 36-25 lead. With 2:40 remaining, the Southern Miss lead was 57-47.
The Trojans didn’t go away quietly. A pair of 3-pointers by Kieffer Punter led a late-game surge but Southern Miss was able to hold off the rally at the free-throw line.
“As a coach, our guys played hard, and it made the loss a little bit better,” said Cross, whose team moves on for a road game at Texas State on Saturday. “A game like this shows we can win basketball games. We are better. We just have to get back to work and have a short memory. We got the defending regular season champs next, and I'm confident we can split the weekend series."
Zay Williams led Troy with 19 and nine rebounds. Punter added 14 points.
Georgia Southern 64, South Alabama 50: The Jaguars trailed by 10 points at halftime and were never able to slice into the deficit in the conference opener at Georgia Southern (8-6).
South Alabama made just 19 of 64 field goal attempts, for a frosty 29.7 percent, and 5 of 22 on 3-point attempts. Owen White and Tyrell White combined to go 5 of 11 on 3-pointers while the rest of the team was 0 for 11 beyond the arc.
The Jaguars (6-7 overall) were outrebounded, 54-27, and only scored seven points off 17 Georgia Southern turnovers.
Isaiah Moore had a team-high 15 points and five assists for the Jaguars, but he also committed four of the team’s eight turnovers.
“We didn't play well,” said South Alabama head coach Richie Riley. “That's my fault as the head coach. We practiced pretty well leading up to tonight, and we just laid an egg. We have great kids, and we've played pretty well on the road most of the time, and we've had a tough slate. We couldn't make a shot, we got pounded on the glass and out-toughed.”
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