Southern Miss improved their C-USA record to 3-1 with a 84-69 victory over Old Dominion, extending their three-game winning streak.
The Lady Eagles forced eight turnovers in the first quarter, then proceeded to harass the Lady Monarchs for the rest of the game, limiting their offensive production.
“That was our plan,” said Coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “Contain press. Kind of get them out of an offense rhythm and if they start their offense under 20 seconds, then we’ve done our job. I felt like we were able to take them out of their rhythm.”
Old Dominion had all of the ingredients to have a successful offensive contest before the game with a decisive size advantage and a potent offense, led by the nation’s second-leading scorer in Jennie Simms who averages 24.7 points per game. But against Southern Miss, she only had 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, combined with four turnovers.
“I knew I had an assignment and my focus was to get the job done [guarding Simms],” said guard Brittanny Dinkins. “I just did what I had to do. For me to get those early buckets, to get that [assist], that set the spark for me.”
Dinkins had the duties of primarily guarding her and recorded a school record-tying ten steals as she guided the team with her efforts on both sides of the court.
Despite the Lady Eagles’ defensive efforts, ODU was able to climb back into the game by shrinking the lead to three by the end of the third quarter. Southern Miss was letting Simms heat up from the field and the rest of the ODU offense was coming on strong.
But, empty possessions kept plaguing the Lady Monarchs as they recorded 29 turnovers as well as 21 steals. The Golden Eagles scored 40 percent of their points (33) off of their forced turnovers.
But, the late-possession offense of USM provided crucial points in the waning moments.
The most vocal on the court, Lee-McNelis says that she can rely on her senior guard to get her team going.
“I can’t say enough about [Dinkins],” Lee-McNelis said. “Today, she did more than just score the basketball. Having ten steals is unbelievable. Then, to be available to score it, then dish it out without any turnovers is huge.”
The offense of Southern Miss shot an efficient 53 percent and accumulated only 16 turnovers. Led by Dinkins’ career-high 32 points, she was followed behind by forward Jayla King who recorded 17 points in her efforts.
“The game always felt like it was a one or two point game,” Lee-McNelis said. “It never felt like we had pushed [the lead] out. It was a very hard-fought game. That was a battle. Every possession is a battle.”
Southern Miss will return to Reed Green on Saturday to face Charlotte at 4 p.m.