Lady Eagles can’t spark offense against Mean Green

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Trailing 39-26 in the third quarter, sophomore Allie Kennedy made an elite pass to sophomore Kennedy Gavin on the fast break, but Gavin missed the shot. North Texas quickly flipped the script and had a player down the court to score on the ensuing fast break. The play was just one illustration of the frustration Southern Miss has experienced on offense this season.

“We have set basketball back in the last three ball games offensively,” Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said.  “We have not done a very good job at all in being able to score the basketball, just playing very hesitant. Honestly, just did not play very solid in trying to be able to score the basketball.”

Southern Miss dropped its third game in a row to North Texas with a 62-48 loss on Saturday night. The loss now puts the Lady Eagles in a 0-2 hole in conference play and just one game above .500 at 8-7 overall.

The Lady Eagles faced three different five minute periods of scorelessness in the game. The first was near the start of the game. Neither team scored during for first three and a half minutes of the game. North Texas finally broke the stalemate scoring at the 6:30 mark, with Southern Miss following a minute later with a Megan Brown three-pointer.

The Lady Eagles struggled to find the board again after halftime, not scoring again until the 5:03 mark to make the game 32-23. In the third quarter, Southern Miss was outscored 18-6.

“I thought our matchup zone was very good in the first half. Our contain press [defense] in the first half was really good. I thought we did a really good job in that first half. Again, I think our lows are the third quarter,” Lee-McNelis said. “I just think that it’s got to be a situation where we just have to take some ownership in that and I do as a head coach. That’s my responsibility to be able to challenge them.”

Again, the Lady Eagles went scoreless for another five minutes in the fourth quarter but managed to make up for it by scoring 12 of their 20 fourth-quarter points in the final three minutes of the game.

Daishai Almond’s play was again the silver lining on the day. The freshman guard led the team in scoring with 13 points.

“The star Daisha Almond has really come to the top of the ladder,” Lee-McNelis said. “She has truly been that difference maker. She has been one that has really begun to soar for us. That’s a bright spot for us.”

The production of the offense and defense have been night and day compared to each other, but the key term is turnovers. Against North Texas, the Lady Eagles gave up 27 and forced 16.

The other notable statistic in the turnover category was points off turnovers. The Mean Green scored 28 points while Southern Miss scored four points in that category.

On average, not including the game against North Texas, Southern Miss has given up the most turnovers in C-USA at 18.6 but forces the most turnovers defensively at 18.7.

“Nineteen of your 27 [turnovers] come from your veteran players,” Lee-McNelis said. “There is no excuse.  This is what I think happens. We don’t play our role and that’s where a lot of the turnovers come from. Twenty-seven turnover, you are not going to win a ballgame when you have twenty-seven turnovers and shoot ball 35% from the floor.”

Southern Miss will go on the road for the next two games, starting with a contest against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

“It is now the time for us to overcome,” Lee-McNelis said. “Our coaches have to overcome. We have got to dig deep. We have got to find a way to make it happen. We must overcome.”