USM basketball to play in Cancun Challenge this season

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – The Southern Miss men's basketball team has officially been announced as one of eight participating teams in the 2018 Cancun Challenge. The games take place in the modified ballroom of the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, in a setting where teams and fans can walk from their rooms to the restaurants to the games.

The Golden Eagles first play at SMU on Sunday, Nov. 11 as part of the tournament's opening round. The international portion of the event begins Tuesday, Nov. 20, when the Black and Gold battle North Florida at 2 p.m. CT. The next day, Southern Miss will play either Jacksonville State or Western Carolina at 11:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. CT to conclude its trip.

"We are always looking for different events that give our players the best competition on neutral sites," head coach Doc Sadler said. "This tournament gives us that opportunity."

The Golden Eagles have become a team of the tropics lately. They also took a foreign trip in August 2017 to the Bahamas for three practice games and competed in the esteemed Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Dec. 2016 (Honolulu). It is also the second consecutive Thanksgiving tournament in which the team has participated, including the 2017 Sanford Pentagon Showcase in South Dakota.

This is the program's first international regular-season trip since Dec. 2013, when it took on Coppin State and Little Rock in the British Virgin Islands. Current Southern Miss assistant Steve Shields was the Little Rock head coach in that contest.

Southern Miss returns four of its starters from last year's 16-win team, which reached the C-USA semifinals thanks to a defeat of No. 1 Middle Tennessee in the quarterfinals. It also marked a seven-win improvement from the previous season, and serves as its most victories since the 2011-12 season. The squad has improved its C-USA win total in each of Sadler's four years at the helm.

More information about the event can be found at CancunChallenge.net.

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