The Coyote men’s basketball team rounded out non-conference play with a 66-60 loss to Southern Mississippi (8-4) at the Sanford Coyote Sports Center Friday night.
Junior guard Triston Simpson’s 15 points led the Coyote offense that struggled to find the basket against Southern Miss’s zone defense.
“We’re not a very good shooting team. Probably one of the worst in the country,” head coach Todd Lee said. “You’re not gonna win many games shooting 35 percent.”
After putting up 28 points against No. 1 Kansas on Tuesday, sophomore Stanley Umude added 11 off the bench, including seven rebounds. Junior Cody Kelley also scored 11 with seven rebounds.
USD (6-7) gave up the ball just twice in the first half and found 34-29 lead at halftime. However, Southern Miss gained an eight-point lead and momentum when the Coyotes experienced a five-minute scoring drought that ended with three minutes left to play.
A three-pointer from sophomore LaDavius Draine gave the Golden Eagles an 11-point lead with 39 seconds remaining, and though Kelley answered with back-to-back three-pointers, it wasn’t enough to complete a comeback.
Recording 14 points and 11 rebounds, senior guard Cortez Edwards led a Southern Miss team that made 50 percent of their shots in the second half.
“I feel like, at times, we get a little too comfortable with the lead and it comes back to bite us in the butt,” Simpson said. “We have seven losses and four or five of those losses we had a lead in the second half, so we gotta work on finishing games.”
Going into Summit League play, the Coyotes are shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 29.8 from three, and consequently, their offense ranks last in the conference with 65.7 points per game.
Lee said the reason behind the offensive lull is simple: shots just aren’t going in.
“In the second half, I see us shooting wide open jump shots, and I see them making contested jump shots. I don’t know how to change that,” Lee said. “We’re right there guarding them, but they make shots, and then we go down to the other end and miss wide open shots.”
It’s not the wrong players throwing up shots, either. Long range specialists Tyler Peterson and Brandon Armstrong failed to make a three-pointer in nine attempts.
“If I think about it, I’m not sure they shot a bad one,” Lee said. “We’re getting good looks.”
USD has six days before the conference opener against North Dakota State (5-8) in Fargo, N.D. on Dec. 28.
“It’ll be nice for some guys to regroup and spend some time with their family, but we’re back here the 25th getting ready for Summit League play,” Simpson said.