March 8, 2012
|Southern Miss 81, East Carolina 78 (OT)|
|Pirate Basketball Central|
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From wire and staff reports
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Neil Watson scored 17 points and Darnell Dodson's 3-pointer put Southern Miss ahead to stay in an 81-78 victory over East Carolina in the Conference USA tournament quarterfinals Thursday.
Watson and Dodson scored 12 of the 13 points in overtime for the second-seeded Golden Eagles (25-7). Dodson's trey made it 78-76 with 59 seconds left. He added a free throw and Watson made two on Southern Miss' next two possessions to make it 81-76.
Robert Sampson's layup brought the 10th-seeded Pirates (15-16) within three points. Watson's two missed free throws with 6 seconds left gave them a chance to tie, but Paris Roberts-Campbell missed from long range.
Sampson's 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime. He finished with 15 points. Miguel Paul led the Pirates with a career-high 28 points and tournament single-game record 12 assists, and Maurice Kemp scored 18.
ECU led for the initial 19 minutes before Southern Miss took its first lead with under a minute left in the opening stanza as Mills converted a 3-point lead to give the Golden Eagles a 32-30 halftime advantage.
The Pirates came out blazing from behind the arc, scoring their first 18 points on 3-point baskets; three from Paul, two from Kemp and another from Gaines. ECU was 6-of-12 from outside the 3-point line in the opening half and 8-of-14 after intermission. The finished the game with a season-high 15 3-pointers, which also equaled a C-USA tournament record.
Southern Miss scored the first eight points of the second half as Southern Miss jumped out to an eight-point lead in less than four minutes, scoring all eight points from the free throw line with Darrius Morrow being whistled for his third and fourth fouls before the first media timeout.
Morrow played just 22 minutes, attempted only two shots, failed to score and fouled out with less than minute to play in regulation during his final game as an ECU Pirate.
Five of the Pirates' next six field goals were 3-pointers with Straughn igniting the 16-7 run from the opposite corner before Gaines capped it with another 3 in front of the ECU bench, putting them back in front, 46-45, with 12:39 to play.
The Golden Eagles regained the lead on the next possession and held a five-point advantage, 61-56, with 5:52 to play.
Paul scored six straight points before Sampson buried a 3 to bring ECU within one, 66-65, with 1:26 to play. Watson made two free throws to push the USM lead back to three and Sampson then sank another 3 to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The Pirates were up 74-73 with under two minutes left in overtime when Kemp was called for his fifth foul after blocking Mills' attempt to score after grabbing an offensive rebound. With Kemp and Morrow both on the bench, the Golden Eagles finished the game on an 8-4 run to end the Pirates' season.
Jonathan Mills scored 16 points and Dodson 13 for Southern Miss.