The Lady Eagles’ three-game win streak ended Saturday afternoon after collapsing in the fourth quarter against Middle Tennessee, losing 81-71.
Southern Miss missed a shot at first place in the West Division of Conference USA after trailing UAB by half a game. The Lady Blazers lost 58-52 at home against the Lady Techsters of Louisiana Tech Saturday, opening the door for the Lady Eagles to take the top spot.
The Lady Eagles entered the fourth quarter with a chance to do so, leading 58-53, but things changed quickly as the Lady Raiders outscored Southern Miss 28-13.
“I think some of our offensive possessions led to some difficult transition defense and I think once that transition defense was lacking, it kind of opened things up for them, ” Southern Miss Women’s Basketball Assistant Head Coach Jack Trosper said.
Trosper filled in for Head Coach Joye-Lee McNelis, who sat out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Southern Miss held a lead for more than 24 minutes until the early fourth quarter.
The Lady Eagles led 23-17 after the first as Daishai Almond ripped a dime under the rim to Destiny Smith to close out the period.
Southern Miss led by only two at the half, at 40-38, scraping by the Blue Raiders after drawing a charge on Middle Tennessee’s Alexis Whittington under the rim after the ball dropped in the hoop for a potential and-one basket.
Almond led the scoring for the Lady Eagles at the half with 12 points on a perfect five of five shooting from the field and two assists. Middle Tennessee’s starting forward Kseniya Malashka held 13 points on three of five shooting, one board and one assist.
The tides turned with seven minutes left in the fourth when the Blue Raiders went on a 15-0 run holding Southern Miss scoreless for almost five total minutes.
“A team as good as they are and prolific as they are shooting the ball when they make a run and you don’t counter, you’re going to run out of time. I think that’s really what happened to us. We didn’t have the time to make the run when we wanted to, ” Trosper said.
Southern Miss could not hold on to the rock, turning the ball over six times in four minutes in the final quarter and The Lady Raiders used those miscues to score 11 points.
Middle Tennessee caught fire down the stretch from the three-point line shooting 50% on four of eight shooting after Southern Miss held them to just 21% from the three through the first three quarters.
“It’s discouraging knowing that we held them so well through three quarters. It’s just toward the end when we needed it most is when we should’ve stepped up, but it does hurt. We’ll probably see them again, and we’ll be ready for sure,” Almond said.
Courtney Whitson caught fire for the Blue Raiders with 15 points in the period, shooting four of six from the field and 2-4 from three. She finished the game with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and one assist.
Almond netted her season-high in a losing fight with 16 points on seven of nine shooting, six assists and one rebound.
Southern Miss drops to (11-6) on the season and (3-3) in conference play remaining in second in the west division of Conference USA. The Lady Eagles travel to Denton, Texas, to take on North Texas this Thursday at 6:30 pm.