Lady Eagles open conference play with loss to Rice

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Michael Sandoz

Following a 61-44 loss to Houston on Dec. 30, the Southern Miss Women’s basketball team (8-6, 0-1 C-USA) opened the new year with a 58-47 home loss to Rice (10-3, 1-0 C-USA) to start conference play.

“I think when you look to try to see what you can take away from this game, I think that you look at, number one, how hard we played,” Southern Miss head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “I thought we played with a tremendous amount of energy. I think when you look at the big picture and you have Shonte Hailes and Megan Brown that scored two points, that are your two best players and have played the most minutes for you and they give you two points, you’re not going to win many ballgames.

Both teams struggled to convert shots in the first quarter. The Owls hit on 38 percent of their shots from the field in the quarter, while Southern Miss converted on just 30 percent of its attempts. Southern Miss also committed five fouls in the opening quarter and Rice took a 12-6 lead.

In the second quarter, the Lady Eagles chipped away at the Rice lead. Two shots by junior Respect Leaphart in the span of two minutes, followed by back-to-back three-point shots from sophomore Allie Kennedy gave the team a 19-17 lead at the 4:11 mark in the quarter. Rice came back to tie the game up at 21-21 two minutes later, but the Lady Eagles orchestrated a 5-0 run at the end of the half to take a 26-21 lead at the break.

Kennedy and redshirt junior Camille Anderson were the two leading scorers for the Lady Eagles in the first half with six points apiece.

In the third quarter, Rice quickly regained the lead over Southern Miss. The Owls outscored the Lady Eagles 18-5 in the period to take a 39-31 lead heading into the final quarter. Southern Miss bounced back to score 16 points in the fourth quarter and cut the Rice lead to six points with 1:44 remaining, but the Owls held on for a 58-47 win.

Anderson finished the night as the team’s only double-digit scorer with 11 points. Redshirt freshman Kelsey Jones was second on the team with nine points and four rebounds. The team as a whole shot 33.3 percent from the field and made just 5-of-26 three-point attempts.

Southern Miss will look to get its first conference win of the season when they take on North Texas at home on Saturday. Tip-off at Reed Green Coliseum is set for 4 p.m.