The Lady Eagles basketball team (4-1, 0-0 C-USA) defeated the Ole Miss Rebels (2-2, 0-0 SEC) Nov. 19.
“Unbelievable basketball game by two very, very good basketball teams early in the year. We were just fortunate enough to be able to win,” head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said.
After a 91-57 loss to in-state rival Mississippi State on Nov. 9, the Lady Eagles were eager to prove their worth against a SEC team.
“It means a lot to us [to win] because that’s an SEC school,” senior guard Shonte Hailes said. “I feel like the world expected them to come in here and beat a C-USA team, and that’s not what was going to happen. We knew since the first day that we had a chance.”
With six lead changes and six score ties, the final score could have gone in favor of either team.
“What it boiled down to was the defensive rebounds that we got in that stretch, and we were able to get things going the other way,” McNelis said. “We finally hit a flow offensively in that stretch, and I think we played with poise.”
The Lady Eagles had a total of 16 defensive rebounds with three of them coming from Hailes.
“I think the major key for us was the play of senior Shonte Hailes. Unbelievable,” McNelis said. “She had fire. She took control of the game. She did not run away from the basketball. She wanted the ball to make the play. Defensively, she helped us.”
Southern Miss kept the lead for the entirety of the first quarter; however, it ended with a tied score of 12-12. Ole Miss briefly jumped ahead in the second, but the lead was recovered by a three pointer from Respect Leaphart. The Lady Eagles stayed ahead for the remainder of the second quarter finishing the first half with a score of 31-22.
The third quarter only saw a layup and free throw from Alarie Mayze and an additional layup by Daishai Almond, which put the Lady Eagles one point behind heading into the final period.
“It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but Alarie Mayze’s defense on the basketball was unbelievable,” McNelis said. “She made things happen with her aggressiveness defensively, and I think that played a major key in our win.”
A fourth quarter jumper by Amber Landing put the Lady Eagles in a point-for-point battle for the remaining 3:55 of the game. A jumper at 1:28 by Hailes gave Southern Miss a four-point margin to work with. A set of free throws by Leaphart followed by a set from Almond finished out the game for a final score of 59-53.
“It is big time,” Leaphart said. “It put us in position early to know what to expect later on down the road so it was a good experience.”
The Lady Eagles will host the next four games with a matchup against Mississippi Valley State Nov. 29.