Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
Southern Miss had a busy, yet successful, Christmas break. The Lady Eagles played six games over the holidays, concluding 3-3 overall, but more importantly, they now stand at 2-1 in conference play. Two of their three victories over the break were overtime wins.
USM will face C-USA opponents for the rest of the season.The Lady Eagles are scheduled to play Middle Tennessee State tonight at 7 p.m. in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
This will be a test for USM as the Blue Raiders are on a five game winning streak, the last three wins being conference games against UAB, FIU and Florida Atlantic. Middle Tennessee State has only lost one game at home this season.
Senior Tamara Jones has led USM’s offensive attack all season. Jones is averaging 16.9 points per game, 18.7 in conference games. She also leads the team in rebounds per game with 6.5.
Jerontay Clemons is a speedy playmaker for the Lady Eagles averaging 10.6 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. Southern Miss will need a strong offensive performance in order to compete with the Blue Raiders, especially from Jones
The Blue Raiders offensively are led by hot hand Olivia Jones who is averaging 20.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. Jones has made 33 three-pointers, higher than any teammate by a landslide.
The six-feet, four-inch Cheyenne Parker is MTSU’s second leading scorer, not far from Jones’s average, with 18 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. Parker also led her team with 27 blocks, the only player with a double-digit number in that category.
Parker will be a challenge for the Lady Eagles as they lack height in their starting lineup.
It will be imperative for USM to find a way to stop Jones and defend Parker in order to compete in the matchup.
Rebounding will be a key part of winning this matchup. The Blue Raiders have a height advantage, but when comparing total offensive and defensive rebounds between both teams so far this season; they are almost even.
Southern Miss has an average of 36.9 rebounds per game and MTSU averages 38.8. Parker leads MTSU with 48 offensive rebounds, most of those put back up for two points. Jones has 83 defensive rebounds for the Blue Raiders and leads her team with 121 total rebounds.
That is impressive for only standing at five feet, 10 inches.
USM’s Jones leads her team in total rebounds with 84. Whichever team wins on the boards will come out on top.
Turnovers have been a problem for the Lady Eagles this season, averaging 19.1 per game. MTSU averages 16.1 turnovers per game. Both teams have defensive playmakers well over the double-digit number for steals this season.
USM’s Alex Coyne has a total of 29 steals, and is known as a solid defender with a keen eye of always knowing where her teammates are on the court and making smart passes to them. Coyne could be a difference maker tonight if she can force the Blue Raiders to turn the ball over.
MTSU’s Jones leads her team with a total of 41 steals.
Southern Miss has a very good chance of winning this game if they can control the Blue Raiders’ two star players.
USM should play small ball by driving the lane and drawing fouls. Getting Parker into foul trouble is a good way to keep her off the court.
Southern Miss must find a way to out-play Parker and Jones. This game could come down to the very last shot and free throws will be crucial. Expect for hotly contested matchup in tonight’s game, especially between the opposing Joneses.
My prediction is for USM to win 69-68.