After coming off an 89-74 road loss to Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss (14-13, 6-8) snapped its fourgame losing streak against the University of Texas at El Paso (1413, 5-9) in a 60-53 win.
“It’s been hard on all of us and it’s been a while since we had a fourgame losing streak,” Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “It’s taken an emotional toll on us which in turn mentally takes a toll on you which in turn physically takes a toll on you. You start searching for answers. You start trying to figure everything out and sometimes all it takes is a win. I’m thankful that this group has remained resilient through it all and has persevered. I hope this win propels us to a good future.”
The Lady Eagles found themselves in a physical contest against the Miners with UTEP taking a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. Southern Miss kept it close and tied the game 25-25 at halftime.
UTEP open the second half with a 5-0 run, extending their lead to as much as seven points. UTEP outscored Southern Miss 14-4 inside the paint which was key to their success.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles trailed 50-47, but a combination of sophomore Alaire Mayze’s defensive forcing four steals. Red shirt junior Megan Brown scored ten points helping to create an 11-0 run.
“I think our defense generated our offense,” McNelis said. “We were able to get some steals. We were able to force them into turnovers and be able to get some easy shots at the rim.”
Clutch shooting from Brown, Mayze and sophomore Shonte Hailes helped Southern Miss outscore UTEP 20-8 in the final quarter and secure the win.
Brown finished the game with 22 points, 18 of which came off six three-pointers. Senior Jayla King scored 10 points, 20 short of reaching 1,000 points for her career. Hailes scored 10 points and Mayze finished with six points and four steals.
“The three balls by Megan Brown was awesome,” McNelis said. “For her to get the opportunity and really knock down those three balls is huge for us and that’s a part of her game that she has really worked on.”
“I guess I was feeling it because they went in,” Megan Brown said. “I went to sleep burning because I couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean against FAU. I got in the gym and practiced and practice does make perfect. There were moments in the game where others did a lot too. I keep thinking of Alarie Mayze, Jayla King and Shonte Hailes. We don’t win without them on the court. I’m glad I made my shots, but they don’t happen without them there.”
The Lady Eagles will stay at home for the last two games of the season. Southern Miss will play Western Kentucky on March 1 at 6 p.m. and Florida International on March 3 at 2 p.m.