HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- It was not unfamiliar territory for Southern Miss sophomore forward Tyler Stevenson.
Back on Dec. 7, he toed the free-throw line with 26 seconds left and a one-point deficit to Southern Illinois. He sank both shots and the Golden Eagles ultimately won 72-69.
Tonight, he was fouled on an offensive rebound with 4.4 seconds left, made the first and then added the second after an FAU timeout. The Owls' three-point try from the top of the key narrowly missed, and Southern Miss pulled out a 68-66 win over Florida Atlantic on Thursday night.
"I just looked over to the bench and Coach (Clarence) Weatherspoon told me to calm down and relax," he said. "I stepped away from the line to cool down."
Head coach Jay Ladner knew it was his time as well.
"Tyler has played great for us and has been a great free-throw shooter," head coach Jay Ladner said. "He had struggled at the line tonight for some reason (2-for-6 before the final shots), but when he went to the line, I felt he was going to make it. Our guys just found a way to win."
Southern Miss had its largest lead of the night, 63-55, with 4:45 to play before the Owls scored eight-straight points to tie it with 2:20 to go. Stevenson went 1-for-2 at the line in the final 90 seconds and then missed a three-point play opportunity that would have made it a 67-63 lead in the final minute. FAU hit a jumper and went 1-for-2 on the next possession to tie it up.
The Owls (14-12, 6-7 C-USA) went on a 7-0 run to take their largest lead of the night, 28-21, with 5:52 left in first half. Southern Miss closed it to 33-31 at the break. The second half saw Southern Miss produce nine offensive rebounds in the first 11 minutes.
"This was a good win for our program," Ladner said. "There weren't a lot of x's and o's at halftime. I told them, and I probably haven't said it enough, that 'no matter what happens in the second half, I love you,' and I wanted them to know I'm proud of them. They've been coached hard and had some rough days. They've responded every time and each time they've been knocked down, they've stood up once more."
Southern Miss (8-18, 4-9 C-USA) hosts FIU on Saturday at 2 p.m. It will also be the team's Senior Day, as it also marks the team's final game before C-USA bonus play. Those final four games will be announced Sunday at 12 p.m. CT.
-Southern Miss has won the last three meetings against FAU, with the previous two coming in Boca Raton.
-The Golden Eagles went 15-for-22 at the line compared to FAU's 7-for-10, marking the sixth time this season they have made more attempts than the opponent.
-It's also the third-such instance against a D1 team this year (also home games against North Florida and North Texas), and the 12 tries serve as the largest difference in any of those contests.
-LaDavius Draine's first two career double-doubles have come in the last two games. He had a team-high 16 points and 11 rebounds tonight, the latter also marking a career-high.
-Draine, Leonard Harper-Baker and Gabe Watson each played the full 40 minutes. It was Watson and Draine's fifth complete game of the last seven, and Harper-Baker's first complete game of his career (went for 42 in overtime win over UAB last year).
-All 10 of Artur Konontsuk's points came in the second half.
Feb 26Ben McNair CenterFree