Kerri Jewett-Giles and Caitlin Jenkins led the Lady Eagles to a 65- 44 win over Alabama State in their season opener.
In the exhibition match against West Alabama, it was Jenkins putting on a show, but in the Lady Eagles’ season opener, it was Jewett-Giles who netted a double- double and narrowly missed a triple-double.
She finished with 19 points, 10 steals and eight rebounds. Despite both freshmen doing well, the Lady Eagles still found themselves down at halftime, 26-22.
But after a spirited locker room chat with head coach Joye Lee- McNelis, the Lady Eagles came out firing in the second half. In the third quarter alone, the Lady Eagles outscored Alabama State, 31-13.
Their 31-13 run was based on Lee-McNelis’ staple—defense and creating turnovers. Southern Miss got 12 easy buckets off of turnovers and shot an unprecedented 66 percent from the field. Jewett-Giles also scored 10 of her 19 points in the third quarter and helped the Lady Eagles take the 39-35 lead.
“When you look at the first half and then the second half, it’s definitely two different chapters in the book,” Lee-McNelis said. “I thought the first half, other than Kerri (Jewett-Giles), I thought we played very timid, very complacent. We didn’t play with a sense of urgency.”
Jewett-Giles was not the only freshman to get in on the action. Jenkins then took over and helped lead a 12-2 run to end the quarter. Southern Miss’ stifling defense continued in the fourth quarter and did not allow a single field goal.
Over the last 13 minutes of the game, USM only allowed seven total points, which looked more like the Lady Eagles everyone saw against West Alabama.
While Jenkins and Jewett-Giles were the front-runners, it was still a team victory for USM as four Lady Eagles score double-digit points. Jewett-Giles had 19, while Jenkins, Jayla King and Brittanny Dinkins had 14, 10 and 10 points, respectively.
Much like the 2014-15 team, this Lady Eagles squad seems to be a second half team. With much of the team playing timid in the first half, it was Lee-McNelis who had to fire up her young, inexperienced team.
“Second half was a tale of a different story. It was so much better,” Lee-McNelis said. “I thought we played with a much higher level of intensity. I challenged several players in the locker room at halftime and they responded well in the second half. We have to be pleased with the win.”
The Lady Eagles will face arguably the best team they will face all year tonight when they travel to Waco, Texas, to take on the No. 5 team in the nation, Baylor. The Lady Bears are coming off a 62-20 thrashing of UT-Arlington in the first round of the preseason WNIT. Tipoff is at 7p.m.