Defense key in Lady Eagles’ second straight win

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The Southern Miss women’s basketball team earned its second home win of the season on Sunday, defeating the Grambling State Lady Tigers 68-47. Despite struggling with turnovers in the first half, the Lady Eagles ultimately pulled away for a convincing victory.

Despite the success on the boards, the Lady Eagles’ offense was limited by eight turnovers in the period. Redshirt senior guard Megan Brown hit a buzzer-beating triple – the first made shot from the perimeter for the team – to give Southern Miss a 15-9 lead entering the second quarter.

Yet another aggressive offensive start led to a 7-0 run to begin the second period for the Lady Eagles, who often cashed in on easy, fast-break buckets following turnovers. However, Southern Miss also had a total of 18 turnovers in the first half along with four missed free throws, delaying an opportunity to extend the lead even further before halftime. Southern Miss entered the locker room with a 28-20 advantage over Grambling State.

Once again, the Lady Eagles’ offense took the court ablaze in the third quarter, stringing together a 12-4 run to claim a 14-point lead. Southern Miss nearly doubled its points total from the first half in the period, making 10-of-16 shots for 22 points to amass a 50-41 advantage. An enormous part of that success was accredited to much better ball control with only three offensive turnovers in the quarter.

Southern Miss pulled away in the fourth quarter, holding Grambling State to only six points and amassing a 68-47 lead by the final buzzer to claim its second victory of the young season.

Head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said the fast starts to each quarter were crucial to allowing her team to establish their game and get the win.

“Whether it’s defensively or offensively, we want to win coming out of every time out and out of every quarter,” Lee-McNelis said. “That gives you the opportunity to set the tone, or set the stage, to win ball games.”

Junior Shonte Hailes led the Lady Eagles in terms of production, sinking six of eight shot attempts for 18 points along with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Hailes attributed that success to great shot opportunities and execution by the whole team.

“I got some great opportunities,” said Hailes. “When teams let us run, I can get going with my money shots inside the lane. We just started running the floor, they fed me the ball, and I was able to make plays.”

Brown also had an impressive showing, scoring 15 points to go with five rebounds and four assists. Junior forward Alarie Mayze put up 14 points on six made shots with six steals in 31 minutes of action.

The largest differential for Southern Miss was its rebounding advantage, outrebounding  Grambling State 42-27 in the contest. Eleven different players recorded at least one rebound for Southern Miss, and Coach Lee-McNelis said that level of intensity off the glass is being encouraged each and every day.

“We’ve told them that [rebounding] is what you’re going to have to do if you want to play, so they’re learning that if you rebound, you’re going to be on the floor,” Lee-McNelis said. “Sometimes it’s kind of a dogfight for that, and we’ve just got to continue to make strides in those areas.”

Southern Miss will now begin preparing for the first road game of the season, a contest against the South Alabama Jaguars. The game will be played on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7:05 p.m.