Feb. 25, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Jonathan Mills' two free throws with 0.6 seconds to play gave Southern Miss a 58-56 win over Rice Saturday in Reed Green Coliseum.
Mills' free throws came after teammate Angelo Johnson launched an air-ball, three-point attempt as the clock wound down. Mills got offensive rebound under the basket and Rice's Arsalan Kazemi was whistled for fouling the USM forward as the final horn sounded.
After the officiating crew reviewed the video, 0.6 seconds were put back on the clock. Mills made the first shot at the line, then tried to carom the second attempt off the rim but the ball bounced up and in for a two-point USM lead. Rice did not get off a final shot.
Rice's last lead came when Kazemi converted a three-point play to give the Owls a a 54-52 lead with 3:41 to play.
Johnson made one-of-two free throws before Neil Watson drove inside, leaned into Rice guard Tamir Jackson and scored while also drawing the foul. His free throw gave the Golden Eagles a 56-54 lead.
The two teams would trade missed shots with Kazemi coming down with a big rebound off a Mills' miss.
At the other end of the floor, Dylan Ennis dribbled around the perimeter and a screen, then drove inside for a layin to tie the game at 56-56 with 1:24 to play.
Jarelle Reischel would stop the Golden Eagles on their next possession, tipping the ball away from Watson and off the USM player with 52 seconds to play.
Rice had an opportunity to take the lead but Ahmad Ibrahim's three-point attempt from the corner rattled away and Mills grabbed the board to set up the final play.
Watson was 3-for-11 from the field but converted on all seven of his free throw attempts to finish with 14 points. Mills scored 11 points and had nine rebounds.
Rice was looking to comeback from a first-half, double-digit deficit for the second straight game.
"Our guys really battled. I thought the game was very reminiscent of the UCF game earlier in the week," said Rice head coach Ben Braun. "I thought our guys came out defensively in the second half and played a whale of a game holding them to 25 percent shooting. That's a strong second half much like we did against UCF."
Rice shot 42 percent for the game compared to Southern Miss's 32-percent clip but the Golden Eagles had a 43-31 advantage on the boards including 18 offensive rebounds.
"We hurt ourselves by not securing the defensive rebounds" Braun said. "In the end, that was the biggest key. We talked about that. We held them to a great percentage but we have to do a better job securing on the defensive glass."
Trailing 29-21 at intermission, the Owls began the second half with a 6-0 run to get back in the game.
Rice would grab its first lead with 11:41 to play, 36-35, when Ennis drained a three-pointer.
Ennis scored a game-high 18 points and had 10 rebounds for his second career double-double. The rookie also had a points-assists double-double earlier in the year.
In the first half, the Golden Eagles took advantage of a six-minute scoring slump by the Owls, rallying from an 8-4 early deficit to go up 13-8 when Johnson converted the first of two free throws with 10:25 to play in the half.
Maurice Bolden, who scored eight first half points, gave Southern Miss its biggest lead of the period when he knocked down a jumper with just over a minute to play to put the Golden Eagles up by 10, 29-19.
Rice would convert on its next possession as Kazemi drove past a defender for a layup.
After Bolden missed a three-point attempt from the top of the key, Rice would get one more offensive opportunity. Jackson grabbed the rebounds and raced to the other end of the floor, getting off a layup driving straight down the lane. But Bolden blocked the shot and the teams went to intermission with USM holding an eight-point lead.
Rice, now 16-13 and 7-7 in Conference USA, closes out the regular season next week. The Owls travel to UTEP on Wednesday to play a UTEP team which has won its last four games. Rice plays host to Houston on Saturday for Senior Night.
Southern Miss improved to 23-6 and 10-4 as Golden Eagles head coach Larry Eustachy won his 400th career game.