The Southern Miss Lady Eagles used a second half surge to lift themselves into the second round of the WNIT for the second straight year.
It was a tale of two halves for the Lady Eagles who trailed 43-33 at halftime, but came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. USM came out much like expected and played lackadaisical and lacked their usual fire.
That coupled with hot shooting from Texas Southern gave the Lady Eagles some serious adjustments to make in the second half. But, USM has been known as a second half team all year and this game made no difference.
“We were not very organized in the first half and we were trying to make things happen quickly,” said Head coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “I think being patient and playing with more poise in the second half was the biggest difference in the ball game.”
Texas Southern shot an uncharacteristic 40 percent from the field and shot 54 percent from the three-point line. However, they were dominated in rebounding and ultimately turned the ball over too many times.
The Lady Eagles out rebounded Texas Southern 44-26 and created18 turnovers. Lee-McNelis said that was the main reason her ladies will be moving on in the WNIT.
“At this point in the year the biggest two factors on the stat line is offensive rebounds which lead to second chance points and turnovers,” McNelis said. “Those things are effort based, because everyone knows what you’re running.”
Tamara Jones played only eight minutes in the first half after drawing two early fouls, but dominated in the second half. As the Lady Eagles main offensive weapon, she tallied 26 points, 17 in the second half and tacked on 11 rebounds.
“I haven’t had many good games lately, but we were down and I had to step up,” Jones said.“I was ready in the first half to go out there and help, but I had those two fouls and coach wasn’t going to put me in with those two fouls.”
Jones led the Lady Eagles offensively and had a huge game, however Jerontay Clemons quietly had a good game and at a different position. After a practice injury to starting point guard Alex Coyne, Clemons was thrust into the point guard role. A role the slashing, shooting guard wasn’t used to.
“I knew since (Alex) was hurt that I had to do different things and analyze the floor and find my shooters and find the right people at the right time and at first it was very difficult for me,” Clemons said.
“I went into the locker room at the half and calmed myself down, told myself I could do it and I went out there and did it.”
Clemons may not have had a great game statistically, but her finding a rhythm in the offense helped open things up for the Golden Eagles offensively in the second half. She kept her poise and allowed things to open up and ran the offense the way Coyne would.
Other than the rebounding, Clemons confidence in herself and McNelis’ offense was the biggest difference in the second half.
The largest crowd at Reed Green Coliseum all year was also a big factor in the Lady Eagles finding their groove. McNelis said they would need their energy again on Sunday as they take on TCU.
“When they started chanting in the second half, it was easily the loudest it has been at a Lady Eagle basketball game all year.” McNelis said.
“It’s going to be critical that we play with that same crowd Sunday.”
Tip off for the second round match up against TCU is set for 4 p.m. at Reed Green.