The Southern Miss Lady Eagles (19-9, 11-5 C-USA) extended their winning streak to five games by defeating the Rice Owls (16-10, 7-8 C-USA) on Thursday night at Reed Green Coliseum — a game that was marked by the return of Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis.
Looking to extend their four-game winning streak and improve their conference standing before the C-USA tournament, the Lady Eagles were able to achieve both of those goals with a 79-60 win over the Rice Owls on Thursday night.
“For us to play the way we did tonight, [it] shows our growth,” said Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “It was a great, great win for this team.”
The game was also notable for the return of Lee-McNelis, who returned to coaching after missing the previous two games due to health issues.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Lee-McNelis said. “Whether I’m on the sideline or whether I’m not, it’s like a well-oiled machine.”
The first quarter was a back-and-forth matchup for the most part, with eight lead changes occurring in the first quarter. Lashyra Cotton’s jumper at the buzzer put the Lady Eagles ahead 16-14 at the end of the first period.
Southern Miss would maintain their lead throughout the second quarter by outscoring the Owls 19-16. The Owls would keep things close though, with Nicole Iademarco scoring at the buzzer to make the score 35-30 heading into halftime.
The Lady Eagle defense kept the Rice offense at bay for most of the third and fourth quarters. After allowing 76 total points in their loss to Rice on Jan. 26, the Lady Eagles held the Owls offense to nine points in the third quarter. Rice tried to mount a comeback by scoring 21 late fourth quarter points, but the Lady Eagles held on to seal the win.
Southern Miss took advantage of the 24 Rice turnovers, scoring 28 points off of those turnovers.
The team also got a boost offensively from sophomore guard Keri Jewett-Giles. Coming off the bench, Jewett-Giles tied her career high with 23 points on the night.
“Keri is learning and growing in the game,” Lee-McNelis said. “Her defensive game gets her going for her offensive game.”
With the win, Southern Miss now holds third place in the C-USA women’s basketball standings. They will look to end the regular season on a high note with two straight home games.
The Lady Eagles will face North Texas on Feb. 25 and Louisiana Tech in their regular season finale on March 3.