Lady Eagles drop both games to back into tourney

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The Lady Eagles dropped back-to-back home games against Western Kentucky and Marshall to wrap up their regular season.

The Lady Eagles would face Western Kentucky on Thursday, falling in a close one 54-53.

In the first half of play, the Lady Eagles went through a tough stretch offensively.

In the first quarter alone, the Lady Eagles committed 14 turnovers and only scored four points on 1-of-5 shooting. Southern Miss’ struggles would play right into Western Kentucky’s hands as they managed to end the quarter with a 19-4 lead.

In the second period, Brittanny Dinkins would score the first 10 points of the quarter to cut Southern Miss’ deficit to five at 19-14.

After Dinkins’ 10-0 run, Western Kentucky would have an 11-2 run of their own with a little more than a minute on the clock to once again maintain a comfortable lead, 30-16.

Western Kentucky went into the half up 33-22. The Toppers had four players with at least seven points, and the balanced attack kept the Lady Eagles off-balanced defensively.

The second half is where tides would change for Southern Miss. The Lady Eagles 13-4 run coming out of the second half allowed USM to cut the deficit to three, 36-33.

The Lady Toppers hot hand would not carry with them into the second half. Western Kentucky’s 27 percent shooting for the quarter and six turnovers led to Southern Miss capitalizing and eventually getting the lead down to only one at the end of the third quarter, 41-40.

In the final quarter, both teams came out of the gate trading baskets. After about six minutes of back and forth scoring between both teams, Western Kentucky took a one point lead with 1:59 left in regulation, 50-49.
Four late game fouls proved to be the determining factor for what team would take home the win. Kendall Noble for the Lady Toppers consistent free throw shooting in the final minute proved to be enough as she made all four to solidify the game, 54-53.

After the loss to Western Kentucky, the Lady Eagles finished their regular season against conference foe Marshall two days later.

With the backcourt of Keri Jewett-Giles, Brittny Norris and Dinkins, the Lady Eagles dominated the opening minutes of the first quarter.

Back-to-back three pointers from Jewett-Giles and Norris and an early layup from Dinkins gave the Lady Eagles an 8-3 lead in the first two minutes. Southern Miss’ own Caitlin Jenkins would score six consecutive points and help Southern Miss’ lead grow to eight with four minutes left, 15-7.

Kiana Evans would handle the majority of the scoring for Marshall as she finished the quarter with 11 points, including nine points going 3-of-3 from the three point line, bringing the Thundering Herd within one at the end of the first quarter, 19-18.

“We started the game like game-busters” said coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “It’s like starting the second quarter we had a flat tire. Not just one, but many.”

The hot start for Southern Miss would only remain for the first few minutes in the first quarter. The Lady Eagles’ performance through the rest of the game would decline. The rest of the second quarter was tightly contested as the Lady Eagles would enter halftime with a four point lead, 35-31.

The third quarter proved to be the defining moment of the game as the Thundering Herd shot 50 percent from the field and three-point line. With those productive numbers, the Thundering Herd established the lead and never gave it back.

“You can’t win a game shooting 14 percent in the fourth quarter,” Lee-McNelis said.
Southern Miss went on to lose the contest, 63-53.

Caitlin Jenkins contributed 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Golden Eagles. Her efforts allowed her to break the freshman rebound record for Southern Miss in the process.

The Golden Eagles will continue their season in the Conference USA Tournament starting on March 9 against UAB.