The Marshall men's basketball team led nearly the entire game Friday night against Southern Mississippi. Among the few seconds the Golden Eagles did lead were the final ones.
Neil Watson's deep 3-pointer with two seconds left gave Southern Miss its first lead since the first minutes of the game and the Golden Eagles escaped with a 60-57 win at Reed Green Coliseum. The Thundering Herd (8-16, 2-7 Conference USA) is now 1-11 this season away from the Cam Henderson Center.
The Herd will try to rebound from that loss Sunday at 2 p.m. at Tulane.
After Watson's 3 gave the Eagles (20-3, 7-1 C-USA) a 58-57 lead, Marshall's long inbounds pass sailed wide and out of bounds. Aaron Brown hit a pair of free throws, and the Eagles intercepted the Herd's final inbounds pass. The only other time USM led Friday night was at 3-2.
"We outplayed them tonight," Marshall coach Tom Herrion said. "We didn't get the result, but we outplayed them tonight."
Ryan Taylor led all players with 17 points and nine rebounds, but Marshall's early success from the 3-point line couldn't last. The Herd made just three of its last 13 from the arc.
The Herd jumped out to a surprising lead, especially considering the funk in which it started during last season's game in Hattiesburg. At one point last season, the Herd trailed 47-7. On Friday night, Marshall opened with a 16-3 lead by hitting six of its first seven shots from the floor. The Golden Eagles, on the other hand, made just one of their first seven.
Their second made shot, though – a layup from Chip Armelin, who also was fouled and hit the free throw – woke up USM. Southern Miss climbed back into the game and cut Marshall's lead to as little as five on an Aaron Brown free throw. The Herd stayed ahead thanks to an uncharacteristically hot start from 3-point range.
The Herd entered Friday's game ranked 14th out of 16 C-USA teams beyond the arc, making just 31.2 percent. Marshall hit five of its first six and six of 11 in the first half. The last one came from the hand of Kareem Canty, who drained a 3 with time running out to give Marshall a 35-24 halftime lead. Meanwhile, Southern Miss made just two of its 11 first-half 3-pointers.
USM was much better from 3 in the second half, making six of nine in that period, including Watson's game-winner.
"We didn't do a good job of switching out on that double ball screen," Herrion said of Watson's shot.
Southern Miss' free-throw quality was lacking, but its quantity helped the Eagles win. USM made just 14 of 27 from the free-throw line, but Marshall made just five of 10.
Brown led USM with 13 points, making five of six free throws. Watson finished with 10, made a trio of 3-pointers and led all players with five assists. Canty scored 11 points for Marshall, but shot just 4-of-12 from the field. Marshall was without forward TyQuane Goard on Friday. The sophomore sat out with a shoulder injury.