Lady Eagles respond with win over LA Tech

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A career-high 33-points from junior guard Shonte Hailes helped guide the Southern Miss women’s basketball team (16-11, 8-6 C-USA) to a 74-70 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Southern Miss lost 106-85 to the Lady Techsters when the two teams first met in Ruston, Louisiana two weeks ago.

Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 17-4 lead over the Lady Eagles early in the contest. Southern Miss missed its first four shot attempts before a successful layup by redshirt junior Camille Anderson at the 8:43 mark in the first quarter. Despite the large lead, Southern Miss outscored Louisiana Tech 4-1 to close out the first quarter.

The Lady Eagles continued to close the deficit in the second quarter. A 6-0 run in the quarter cut Louisiana Tech’s lead to 21-18 with 6:49 left to play in the half. Louisiana Tech maintained its lead for the rest of the quarter, but back-to-back shots from junior Shonte Hailes and freshman Daishai Almond helped the Lady Eagles enter halftime with a 34-31 deficit.

“They [Louisiana Tech] got off to a great start,” Southern Miss head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “They got off to the races, they made big shots and we missed shots at the rim. But I thought in the second half we got on track and played very much in rhythm and I think the second quarter was truly the difference in the game.”

A 10-0 run in the middle of the third quarter helped the Lady Eagles take their first lead of the game. It was Hailes’ layup at the 4:36 mark in the quarter put Southern Miss ahead 39-38. Three free throws allowed the Lady Techsters to take a 50-49 lead with six seconds left in the period, but a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Almond quickly erased that lead and gave Southern Miss the 52-50 lead heading into the final quarter.

“Daishai Almond does a great job of getting me wide open shots, and she did that the whole entire third quarter,” Hailes said. “Once I get set and shoot it and I’m wide open, it’s pretty 100 percent.”

Hailes provided big moments in the fourth quarter to give the Lady Eagles the advantage against the Lady Techsters. With a one-point, 59-58 lead with 6:15 left to play, Hailes hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Southern Miss a 65-58 lead. Hailes also made six free-throw attempts in the final 30 seconds to seal the 74-70 win for the team.

Hailes was 11-of-18 from the field against Louisiana Tech, including 4-of-8 from three and 7-of 13 from the free-throw line. Behind Hailes in the box score was Almond, who finished with a career-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Coach Lee-McNelis also talked about her team’s defensive performance in the win.

“I will tell you, in the fourth quarter, I think the difference in the game is we made huge defensive stops,” Lee-McNelis said. “Kelsey Jones got her hands on the ball, she kept a lot of balls alive for us and I thought different players made some great defensive stops for us to be able to get some things going for us offensively going the other way.”

With the win, Southern Miss has won three straight games. The Lady Eagles return to the court for the final home game of the regular season against UTSA on March 2. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.