The Southern Miss women’s basketball team (11-7, 3-4 C-USA) lost its third consecutive game to Middle Tennessee (13-7, 5-3 C-USA) on Jan. 25.
“We are in conference play. The pressure is a little bit greater, and early on our bench was giving us a lot of production. And now if you look at the stat sheet in our three losses, our bench has been nonexistent,” head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “We are just not playing very well right now.”
Middle Tennessee started off the scoring with a jumper from Anastasia Hayes at the 9:20 mark. Kelsey Jones quickly put Southern Miss on the board with a free throw. A jumper by Alarie Mayze paired with a layup by Mayze and Daishai Almond gave the Lady Eagles a one-point advantage. Two jumpers by Shonte Hailes and a three-pointer from Mayze secured the Lady Eagles’ lead until a three pointer, two free throws and a jumper by Middle Tennessee ended the period with a score of 15-14 to the Lady Raiders’ advantage.
Respect Leaphart responded to Middle Tennessee’s two layups with a jumper followed by a jumper and two free throws by Jones to briefly put Southern Miss back in the driver’s seat. Leaphart had a free throw and a jumper for the second quarter accompanied by a layup by Mayze and jumper by Hailes; however, the Lady Eagles trailed by nine at the half.
In the third quarter, the Lady Eagles had four layups to narrow the score gap to one point. Leaphart was responsible for two, and Mayze and Jones each had one. Jones had two more jumpers for the period, yet Southern Miss was behind by 15 at the end of the third.
Hailes had 15 points in the fourth quarter including two three-pointers. Mayze finished out the game with two jumpers and a free throw, Jones with a jumper and two free throws and Leaphart with a jumper and layup. The Lady Eagles fell to the Lady Raiders with a final score of 77-69.
“Mentally we have to be a little bit tougher,” McNelis said. “It starts with me as the head coach and our coaching staff.We have to lace up our bootstraps and try to figure out something else.”
As a whole, the Lady Eagles had 22 turnovers, which allowed Middle Tennessee to score 27 points off of the turnovers. They also shot just 21.4% in three-pointers making only 3 out of 14. Hailes carried the team with 21 points for the game. McNelis relies heavily on Hailes to put up points in order to secure a win.
“At first I wasn’t [feeling the pressure,] but now losing three games straight I’m feeling the pressure.[McNelis] is demanding that I score the ball, and I’m trying to do that but the defense is facing me a lot so it’s hard to do that,” Hailes said.
Despite the adversity the team has faced so far, Mayze is confident that practice and positivity will produce a win.
“My job is to help my teammates and encourage them to keep pushing and not giving up,” Mayze said. “We just have to keep working, and it’s going to fall. I know it’s hard losing three games in a row, but we just have to keep working.”
The Lady Eagles will travel to Old Dominion on Jan. 30 for a 6:30 tip off.