The Lady Eagles rolled to a 90-49 victory in their only exhibition game of the season against West Alabama Saturday. The Lady Eagles scored 52 of their 90 points in the paint.
Freshman Caitlin Jenkins recorded a double-double in her debut, scoring 11 points and grabbing 15 rebounds after ending the first half with only four rebounds. While Jenkins played well, redshirt sophomore Jayla King took the scoring title for the night with her 20 points. King went an efficient 9-for- 11 from the field and 1-for-2 from both the free throw line and from behind the arc. She also added four rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“(King) brought tremendous consistency across the board for us,” said head coach Joye Lee-McNelis.
Southern Miss had five players in double-digits in scoring: juniors Brittany Dinkins scored 13 points while Lashyra Cotton and Brittny Norris each scored 11. Most of Norris’ 11 points came from the three-point line, draining three from behind the arc.
“We had (Norris) shoot the cover off of it from the parking lot, deep downtown range,” Lee-McNelis said.
The Lady Eagles shot 59 percent in the first quarter from the field, while holding the Lady Tigers to just under 49 percent shooting.
The second quarter is when the Lady Eagles asserted their will and extended their lead. The defense applied pressure and only allowed six points in the quarter. The Lady Eagles shot 50 percent from the field and held the Lady Tigers to just 14 percent shooting from the field.
At halftime, the Lady Eagles had a comfortable 53-27 lead over the Lady Tigers. Southern Miss only committed four turnovers in the first half and had 13 assists on 22 field goals. Thanks to an
aggressive second quarter, the Lady Eagles held West Alabama to 30 percent from the field. The Lady Eagles offense scored efficiently, shooting 55 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the three-point line.
Freshman Keri Jewett-Giles displayed her versatility in the first half in her first start as the USM point guard, scoring nine points, while dishing six assists and grabbing five rebounds.
“We saw some unbelievable bright spots in our two freshmen (Jewett-Giles and Jenkins),” Lee- McNelis said.
Jewett-Giles’ spreading of the ball and command of the offense showed why Lee-McNelis has excitement for her potential. Jenkins proved to be a force in the post on both ends of the floor, blocking and altering shots on the defensive end while using an array of post moves offensively.
Southern Miss picked up where they left off at the start of the third quarter, scoring six points in the first three minutes. After a quick start, both teams found it difficult to score as both teams’ shooting percentages dipped below 40 percent for the quarter. Southern Miss turned the ball over 11 times in the quarter, but despite their poor shooting and sloppy play, the Lady Eagles were able to push their lead to 64-34 heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter, the Lady Eagles used defense to create offense, scoring 13 of their 26 points in the quarter off of turnovers. The offense returned to what worked in the first half, and ran their offense through their interior players. The Lady Eagles scored 12 points in the paint in the quarter.
“Our defense created some easy baskets in transition,” Lee-McNelis said. “We showed we have to ability to run.”
In a game where there were plenty of positives, coach Lee- McNelis points out the team’s biggest flaw of the night.
“For our first outing with so many new people, we have to be pleased but not satisfied,” Lee-McNelis said. “We had four turnovers in the first half and 14 in the second. That can’t happen.”
Southern Miss will open the regular season on Nov. 13 in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT against Alabama State at Reed Green Coliseum. Tipoff is for 11 a.m.