Southern Miss survived a late rally by Nicholls State in the fourth quarter of the team’s opening round contest in the Women’s Basketball Invitational on Thursday night to come away with a 77-71 win.
“That’s truly an example of March Madness, no doubt,” Southern Miss head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “Again, it [Nicholls State’s fourth-quarter run] kind of took us out of rhythm, offensive rhythm, defensive rhythm. Nicholls made their run, but we had players that made stops when it became a three-point game when they had opportunities to cut it to less than three. I’m really proud of them.”
The Lady Eagles jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead, but a subsequent Nicholls State three-point shot tied the game at 5-5. The two teams traded leads in the first half, but a 9-0 run from Southern Miss helped the team close out the quarter with a 19-11 lead.
Southern Miss maintained its lead throughout the second quarter, but Nicholls State kept the score close throughout and closed the half out on a 5-0 run to end the second quarter, and Southern Miss took a 36-30 lead at the half.
Junior guard Shonte Hailes led the team with 10 first-half points.
A 25-point fourth quarter for the Lady Eagles in which they held Nicholls State to 10 points allowed the team to carry a 61-40 lead into the fourth and final quarter of the contest.
Despite the large lead for Southern Miss, Nicholls State made it a close contest in the fourth quarter. The Colonels opened the quarter on a 10-0 run, then cut their deficit to two points at the 3:51 mark. However, the Lady Eagles never relinquished the lead and made eight free throws and two field goals over the final 3:39 of play to hang on for the 77-71 win.
The Lady Eagles had four players score in double-digits on the night. Redshirt senior Megan Brown led the team with 18 points, followed by 16 points from Hailes, 15 from redshirt junior Camille Anderson and 10 points from junior Alarie Mayze.
As a team, Southern Miss relied on 38 points in the paint, 24 Nicholls State turnovers and 32 points off of turnovers. The Lady Eagles made 27-of-58 field goals in the contest as well.
Southern Miss will have the opportunity to host another WBI contest when they take on North Alabama in the second round of the tournament on Monday, March 25. Tip-off at Reed Green Coliseum on Monday is set for 6 p.m.
Lee-McNelis talked about the upcoming matchup with North Alabama.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Lee-McNelis said. “They’re fast, they’re a transition team, they’re going to be off to the races. We’ve got to be mentally ready to be able to be the toughest team on the floor because they are very tough.”
Tip-off at Reed Green Coliseum on Monday is set for 6 p.m.