Southern Miss returned to Hattiesburg after 31 days of absence to defeat the Lady Techsters of La Tech with a final score of 65-60.
“Praise the Lord,” Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said on returning to Hattiesburg. “The players were excited, and we have talked a lot about protecting our home court.”
The Lady Eagles did exactly that, fighting with conference rival La Tech in a game that started competitive and lasted throughout, with both teams playing well defensively and hitting tough shots.
At the end of the first quarter, the Lady Techsters led 17-16. Destiny Smith led Southern Miss scorers with six points and Keiunna Walker led with eight points on La Tech.
Both teams were shooting under 50% as defense was the theme going into the second quarter.
It was the Lady Eagles’ defense that gave them the eventual advantage over La Tech though.
“If I could pick one aspect of our game that I am most proud of, it is our defense,” Lee-McNelis said. “I thought it was very solid. I thought we stood firm in it.”
The Lady Eagles jumped out on a 9-4 run to start the second quarter and translated their defense to offense; they had five steals, which led to four fast breakpoints.
The second quarter boost gave Southern Miss a 32-28 halftime lead. Domonique Davis led Southern Miss in scoring at the half, racking up eight points and Walker added to her total finishing with 14 points at the break.
In the third quarter, Southern Miss got off to a hot start but was halted by an 11-3 run to end the quarter for the Lady Techsters.
Southern Miss shot at a 47% clip but allowed La Tech to shoot at 67% in the third quarter.
Then, the fourth quarter trended poorly for the Lady Eagles. Melyia Grayson picked up her fourth foul not even 90 seconds into the period and Southern Miss went scoreless for the fourth quarter’s first three minutes, forcing Lee-McNelis to call timeout as the Lady Techsters held a seven-point lead.
“Coach [Lee-McNelis] told us we needed to lock back in. I think we all realized we hadn’t scored in a minute, and she fired us up, and we went on our own little run,” Davis said.
Lauren Gross came right out of the timeout and nailed her first three-pointer of the game, followed by a basket by Kelsey Jones and the Lady Eagles were back in business, only down by two.
Grayson checked back in with around two minutes to play and scored the game-tying basket. After back and forth possessions with the game tied at 60, Rose Warren found Davis in the corner, who gave the Lady Eagles the go-ahead three-pointer to seal the game.
“Those are the kind of moments we live for as kids. You’re counting down 5..4..3..those are the kind of moments we live for and knowing my teammates have my back allows me to take that shot with confidence.” Davis said.
Southern Miss improves to 9-5 and 2-2 in conference play. The Lady Eagles will face UTEP next in a home matchup on Jan. 17 at 1 p.m.