Lady Eagles fall in championship to MTSU: fate to be decided Monday

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

The University of Southern Mississippi Lady Eagles finished the regular season on an 11-game winning streak, beating North Texas on the road, 80-77.

On March 13, the Lady Eagles (24-5) entered the 2014 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championships as the second seed facing seventh-seeded Old Dominion University.

With high level of play from senior point guard Jamierra Faulkner and her supporting casts, Southern Miss knocked off Old Dominion, 83-64 to advance to the semifinal round of the tournament.

The two teams went back-and-forth in the first half; however, the Lady Eagles led 46-40 at the half. Southern Miss went on a 12-2 run to open the second half, increasing the lead to 58-42 with 16:47 remaining in the game. Despite the Big Blue cutting the deficit to eight on several occasions, the Lady Eagles took full control over the second half.

For the game, Southern Miss shot 55.9 percent (33-of-59) from the field, converted 6-of-10 from the beyond the arc and committed only 14 turnovers.

Freshman Brittany Dinkins led all scorers for the Lady Eagles with 19 points, followed by Jamierra Faulkner’s 10th double-double of 15 points and 12
assists while Kierra Jordan added 16 points. Shae Kelley led all scorers for Old Dominion with 13 points.

In semifinal action, Southern Miss defeated third-seeded UTEP in a come-from-behind win, 84-70 to extend its league-best winning streak to 13 games. The Lady Eagles advanced to the championship game to host top-seeded and no. 22 Middle Tennessee State.

Jamierra Faulkner led all scorers for the Lady Eagles, scoring 22 of her 26 points in the second half and tied for a game-best eight rebounds and seven assists to become the C-USA career assists leader with 854. In addition, two other Lady Eagle player finished in double digits in the contest. Jerontay Clemons scored 17 points and Tamara Jones netted 13 points.

Southern Miss shot 47.5 percent (28-for-59) from the floor and an impressive 80 percent (24-for-30) on the game.
Senior Kayla Thornton led all scorers for UTEP with 20 points, followed by Stacie Tellers with 13 points and Chrishuana Parker finishing with 12 points on the afternoon.

Top-seeded Middle Tennessee State snapped the Southern Miss
13-game winning streak, winning 84-55 in the C-USA title game Saturday evening.

The Lady Eagles (26-6) scored the first five points to open the game before Middle Tennessee went on a 15-7 run, capped off by a three-point shot from the 2014 C-USA Player of the Year Ebony Rowe to give the Blue Raiders a 15-12 lead with 10:32 to go in the first half.

From there, Southern Miss scored eight straight points to take a 20-17 advantage with 5:35 remaining in the half. Middle Tennessee was led by an aggressive defense to go on a 13-2 run before the half, forcing Southern Miss into five turnovers. The Blue Raiders led at the half, 30-22.

In the second half, the two teams went back-and-forth over the first several minutes; however, Middle Tennessee (29-4) was too much for Southern Miss. With 15:30 left in the second half, the Blue Raiders led 41-31 and went on a 16-2 run that spanned seven minutes, putting the Lady Eagles in a huge deficit to overcome. Middle Tennessee led by as many as 31 at one point, in part due to Southern Miss fouling down the stretch.

For the game, the Lady Eagles shot 41.8 percent (23-for-55) from the field, 17.6 percent (3-for-17) from three point range and 66.7 percent (6-for-9) from the charity stripe. The Blue Raiders shot 50 percent (29-for-58) from the floor, enjoyed a 25-10 advantage in points off turnovers, outscored the Lady Eagles 19-9 in second-chance points while converting 17-for-24 from the free throw line.

Jamierra Faulkner led all Lady Eagle scorers in her double-double of 20 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, followed by 15 points from Tamara Jones and 12 from Jerontay Clemons.
Ebony Rowe scored 23 points to lead the team in scoring followed by C-USA Freshman of the Year Olivia Jones’ double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds.

The Lady Eagles will receive their postseason bid on “Selection Monday” of whether or not they will play in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament or earn a spot in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.