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Ladner named as Sunbelt Coach of the Year

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Jay Ladner: Photo from USM Athletics

Story from USM Athletics:
NEW ORLEANS — Three days after being crowned Sun Belt Regular Season Champions, three players and head coach Jay Ladner picked up All-Sun Belt honors in a release by the conference office. The awards were voted upon by the league’s 14 head coaches.

Southern Miss head coach Jay Ladner was named the Joe Gottfried Coach of the Year after producing one of the best turnaround stories in NCAA Division I basketball history. Ladner’s Golden Eagles have racked up 25 wins after finishing with seven a season ago. The 18-win swing is two shy of tying the record for the best turnaround in NCAA history that Iowa State set during the 2021-22 season. Southern Miss has also set numerous records under Ladner’s tutelage this season.

The Golden Eagles’ 25 wins are tied for the most in Southern Miss’ Division I era and four shy of tying the most wins in program history. Ladner’s team also went 15-0 at Reed Green Coliseum to tie the 2011-12 team for the best home winning percentage in program history. The Golden Eagles finished Sun Belt play with 14 wins to tie the 1949-50 team for the most conference wins in a single season. Ladner is the first coach to earn coach of the year honors since Larry Eustachy in 2012.

Junior guard Austin Crowley was named the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year after finishing the regular season as Southern Miss’ leading scorer. The Ole Miss transfer is averaging 16.2 points per game and has a team-leading 61 steals. He is 10 steals shy of tying the single season record set by Cortez Edwards. The West Point product scored 20-plus points 10 times and finished in double figures in 24 games this season. He scored a career-high 30 points in a win over App State on Dec. 31.

Crowley scored 25 points at Liberty to help Southern Miss to one of its biggest road wins in the last 10 seasons. He also poured in 25 points in a home win against rival South Alabama in mid-January. The versatile guard had a career-high six steals against Winthrop to help the Golden Eagles to the Cancun Challenge title in Cancun, Mexico. Crowley is the first Golden Eagle to win a conference newcomer of the year award since Dwayne Davis was named Conference USA Newcomer of the Year in 2013.

Crowley also picked up First Team All-Sun Belt honors. Graduate forward Felipe Haasewas named Second Team All-Sun Belt, while senior forward DeAndre Pinckney earned Third Team All-Sun Belt Honors. It’s the first time since the 1887-88 season where three Golden Eagles land on all-conference teams. The honor is Haase’s second-straight as the Osorno, Chile native was named All-SoCon Second Team last season at Mercer.

Haase is averaging 15.2 points per game and has dished out 94 assists so far. The go-to big man scored a season-high 28 points against Lamar in December and then added 26 points at Texas State to help the Golden Eagles clinch the regular season title. He at least 20 points in seven games, including 24 games with at least 10 points scored. Haase had a pair of double-doubles and had six games with at least five assists.

Pinckney was named a third teamer after averaging 13.2 points per game and 14.4 points per game in Sun Belt play. The Carol City, Fla. native averaged a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game in league play. The three-year player scored a career-high 28 points against James Madison and had seven double-doubles this season. He twice pulled down 13 rebounds and had five assists in two different games. Pinckney scored 10-plus points in 22 games and in 16 Sun Belt games.

The Golden Eagles will head down to Pensacola, Fla. later this week ahead of the Hercules Tires Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Championship, set to take place February 28 through March 6 at the Pensacola Bay Center. Southern Miss will play the winner of South Alabama and App State Saturday, Feb. 4 at 11:30 a.m.

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