Lady Eagles rely on youth, defense in 74-48 win over WCU

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Destiny Smith goes up for lay up. Photo by: Andrew Abadie

The Southern Miss women’s basketball team opened the 2018-2019 regular season with a 74-48 home win over William Carey on Tuesday, Nov 6.

The Lady Eagles look to be a physical team in the paint, as they scored 58 points in the paint and put together 56 total rebounds. At the same time, a highlight of the team will be its defense, as the team came away with 33 defensive rebounds, 11 steals and held WCU to a 26% shooting percentage.

“I believe that in order to win games early you have to be able to defend, you got to rebound and you have to make easy buckets,” Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “We rebounded pretty well, we defended ok and probably the worst aspect of it was that we missed two footers. [If] we make the two-foot shots we need to make then we have every opportunity to be able to blow this game open a little earlier.”

Junior Shonte Hailes, who is coming off an injury from late last season, is now being called on to be the leader of the team. Hailes finished the game with seven points, six assists and three rebounds.

“We have really challenged her,” Lee-McNelis said. “I think she has practiced a lot being really frustrated because again were so young and it’s really been hard for her because of the youth of this team. She got to teach while she is helping and I thought in the last two days, coach Lauren Pitmann said in the locker room the last two days she has become a teacher on the floor and I thought she did a great job of that today and I think she’s done a great job of it the last two days.”

One of the key reasons, Hailes is being called upon to have a larger role in terms of leadership is because of the amount of youth on the team. The team has five freshmen, two sophomores and five juniors, with just one senior on the roster.

“It’s been pretty tough at the beginning but now I’m kind of easing in there and learning how to encourage different teammates because different teammates react different to me saying stuff. So I’m learning them and coach McNelis is leaning on me a lot for leadership and I’m just taking on that role and going out with a bang this year,” Hailes said. “I have to know that the team goes off me so if I’m getting mad or upset or something they are going to be like ‘dang I just let her down’ so when they do mess up I try to talk to them and ‘say he we have to do this’ instead of getting frustrated like I use to do or not say anything. I have to work with them because they are young.”

A pair of potential difference makers looks to be redshirt freshman Kelsey Jones and redshirt junior transfer Camille Anderson. Both Anderson and Jones came off the bench against William Carey. Jones started her career with a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Anderson had nine points, five rebounds and two assists.

“Kelsey Jones was a huge spark for us coming in and that’s why we started her in the third quarter. I thought Camille Anderson would be the super-sub off the bench for us, she gave us a supercharge there as well,” Lee-McNelis said. “Kelsey has an opportunity to be a very special player here because Kelsey has great hands, she has a very high basketball IQ for a post player. She can catch, she can run when she’s forced to run, and she has a great potential.”

Southern Miss will return to action against Grambling State on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.