Following an ECU turnover, USM guard Dwayne Davis earned a trip to the free throw line and tied the game at 71 with 28 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
In the extra session, the Pirates trailed, 84-82, and were given a final shot to salvage a win with 15 seconds left, but ECU guard Paris Roberts-Campbell passed up a wide-open look and threw it away to seal the their fate. The Golden Eagles (20-6, 9-2 Conference USA) escaped Minges Coliseum with an 86-82 win.
"Paris had (a shot), and passed it. It's a tough situation for him. He hadn't played a lot at the end and I think he was a little nervous to take it," said ECU coach Jeff Lebo.
Despite Davis' 19 points in the second half and overtime for a team high 23 points, the Pirates (14-9, 5-6 Conference USA) felt this was a game that they should have won.
"It was all on us. We couldn't get any stops" said Akeem Richmond. "It's frustrating."
Forward Robert Sampson added, "Our execution was sloppy…It was little things that made us lose."
Richmond made a career-high 8 three-pointers (8-15) that helped him score a game high 25 points, tying his career mark.
The Pirates 37 three-point attempts (15-37) are tied for the second most in school history—only trailing the 40 they attempted against Houston on March 8. 2008(15-40 3FG).
With all the attention being shined upon ECU's success shooting from the perimeter, Southern Miss dominated the paint—outscoring the Pirates 54-18 and owning the advantage in rebounding, 40-30.
"The Points in the paint really hurt us," said Lebo. "They're stronger than we are and more physical."
The Pirates committed 10 fouls Wednesday night against Alabama-Birmingham. Saturday they were charged with 21, with their three leading scorers—Maurice Kemp, Miguel Paul, Ty Armstrong—each having at least 4 fouls.
Armstrong, a 6-foot-8 forward averaging 9.8 points per game, got into foul trouble early and was only able to play 23 minutes for 1 point and 4 fouls.
Conference USA's leading scorer Maurice Kemp had 4 fouls as well, but still managed to play 40 minutes for 9 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and a pair of blocked shots.
In overtime, ECU relinquished an opportunity to tie the game, trailing 82-79, with both Paul and Richmond missing from beyond the arc with 23 ticks left. Paul was forced to commit his fifth foul—finishing with 22 points and 8 assists.
After Southern Miss split the pair of ensuing free throws, Robert Sampson kept the Pirates' hopes alive on a triple with 16 seconds left to make it 83-82 USM.
17 days removed from suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury, Sampson scored 16 points and collected a game high 13 rebounds.
ECU learned that senior Corvonn Gaines' left shoulder injury was serious enough to end the his season. Gaines was arguably, the team's most reliable defensive player in the backcourt.
USM's Neil Watson and Jonathan Mills each finished in double figures and grabbed 8 rebounds apiece, scoring 17 points and 14 respectively.
In the first 10 minutes of the game, there were 5 ties and 7 lead changes. Then, the Pirates began firing on all cylinders from outside and had their largest lead of the game at 35-23. The Golden Eagles responded by scoring the final eight points of the first half—with ECU still in front 35-31 at halftime.
Outside Minges Coliseum, the city of Greenville was experiencing a rare snow storm. That didn't stop the Pirate Nation from coming out—the announced attendance was 6,011.