The Southern Miss Lady Eagles (12-8,4-4C-USA) hosted UAB (10 -9,3-5C-USA) winning 64-59 on Kay James night, commemorating the legendary coach’s induction into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
“So many of times, legends are people you can not touch or talk too, you just read about them,” said Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “We are blessed to have [Kay James] as a part of our program – with radio – coming to practice and giving advice to the players.”
With the historic night at hand for the Lady Eagles, their play in the first half did not match the occasion. The Lady Eagles’ weakness was scoring in the first quarter as their opponent, UAB, shot 67 percent, including 3-of-8 from three-point range.
Southern Miss’ numbers were far from poor, shooting 55 percent off of 6-of-11 shooting, but that did not reflect on the scoreboard. Southern Miss committed six turnovers, helping UAB finding their offensive rhythm. UAB finished the first period with an eight-point lead, 24 – 16.
Limiting UAB’s three-point shot for as they kept the Blazers under their average of seven three- pointers a game to five in the entire night. Coming into the contest, UAB led C-USA in three-point shooting, shooting 38.2 percent from behind the three-point line this season.
“Limiting their [UAB] three point touches is something we did execute throughout the whole game,” Lee-McNelis said. “The game would be really ugly if we would not have carried out this execution.”
As Southern Miss found ways to limit the outside shot, UAB’s post game became more effective. UAB foward Katelynn Thomas finished the first half with nine points and shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor. Thomas’ efforts came off of the play of UAB guard Janeka Williams, who finished with 11 points and also shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor, including knocking down a three- pointer. Both of their efforts would lead to UAB having a seven-point lead, 40-33.
It took the Lady Eagles only two minutes of play into the second half to tie the game for the first time. Southern Miss’ effort to rally momentum and tie the game would remain with them as they exited the third quarter with a four-point deficit, 51-47.
“All of the things that went wrong for in the first three quarters, went right for us in the fourth quarter,” Lee-McNelis said.
Southern Miss dominated the fourth quarter of play only allowing UAB to shoot 17 percent from the floor and forcing the Blazers into committing eight turnovers.
The final minute of the game would be where Southern Miss’ bench showed their impact.
With 19 clicks left on the clock, up 60-57, guard Keri Jewett-Giles stole the inbound pass from UAB, ran down court and converted an and-one layup. With a flagrant foul called on the play, Jewett-Giles stepped to the line and converted both free throws to extend the lead to five.
With Southern Miss getting possession back, Jewett-Giles converted with another basket, scoring six points in a span of 1.3 seconds.
“Bring that spark off the bench,” Jewett-Giles said. “Just help bring that extra fuse and get us going.”