Southern Miss edged out the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers for a two point, 63-61, victory Saturday. The win gives the Lady Eagles a 13-7 record overall, and a 6-3 record in conference play.
The game was close the entire first half as neither team could really gain an advantage. Until the 3:18 mark in the half, the largest lead was a 5-point Lady Topper lead.
Alexis Govan pick pocketed the ball from Voche’ Martin’s possession and got the ball to Ileana Johnson. Johnson drove to the rim and when the defense crashed to her, she found Chastity Gooch open behind the three point line. Gooch took her time and nail the 3-pointer, pushing Western Kentucky’s lead to eight.
Southern Miss pulled closer to Western Kentucky after Megan Brown made a 3-point shot, off the assist from Brittanny Dinkins, to make the score, 26-21. It looked like Southern Miss was going into half only down by three, but Kendall Noble beat the buzzer on her 3-point attempt and give the Lady Toppers a 6-point, 31-25, lead going into the half.
Southern Miss clearly felt like it had an advantage in the paint, scoring nearly half of its points, 12 of 25, in the paint in the first half.
The Lady Eagles came into the second half with a new focus. On Western Kentucky’s first possession, Brooke Rhodes recorded her first steal of the game and found point guard Alex Coyne. Coyne then rewarded Rhodes by finding her open in 3-point land and she delivered, knocking down the attempt.
Rhodes cut the Lady Toppers’ lead back to three. Both teams went through a stretch where they shot lights out, and Southern Miss was able to take the lead with 12:19 left for the first time since the 15:53 point in the first half.
The Lady Toppers held a 43-42 lead before Brown found Martin cutting to the rim for a layup. Martin made another layup on the next possession to give Southern Miss a 3-point lead. The Lady Toppers regained the lead thanks to shots from Govan and Gooch. With five minutes remaining, the Lady Eagles’ outplayed and outscored the Lady Toppers 12-7.
“We stayed true to the course even though they made that run just before the half,” USM head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “We felt like we were right where we needed to be. What made this so special was that in different segments of the game, it was different players. We made some great adjustments today.”
The Lady Eagles’ Tamara Jones led the team in points, scoring 14 on the night. Brooke Rhodes chipped in 13 points and five assists while Jerontay Clemons had 9 points, five assists and two steals.
Next up for the Lady Eagles (13-7) are the Middle Tennessee Lady Blue Raiders (14-5). The game will be played at Reed Green Coliseum Thursday Feb. 5. The contest is scheduled to tipoff at 6 p.m.