The Southern Miss women’s basketball team kicks off the regular season against crosstown foe William Carey Friday at noon in front of its home crowd at Reed-Green Coliseum.
A strength for the Golden Eagles will be their play in the paint with their roster holding four players that stand at least 6 feet.
For the Lady Eagles’ starting five this season, Alex Coyne has the keys to the offense. Coyne is a returning starter with a knack at finding her teammates in the right spot at the right time. She has the perfect skills to be in the All-Conference USA talk at the guard position. In exhibition play against West Florida, Coyne finished with a game-high six assists.
“We do feel comfortable with Alex (Coyne) running the offense,” said head coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “This is her sophomore year and over the summer she worked hard to better understand where her teammates will be open on the court throughout the game.”
Brittanny Dinkins is the other starting guard for the Lady Eagles and has been a streaky shooter throughout her collegiate career. If she gets into a zone early in the game, then it is going to be a long night for the opposing team. She possesses good ball-handling skills and loves getting herself open coming off of screens and knocking down mid or long-range jumpers.
Kierra Jordan will play a big role for the Lady Eagles, as their forward she is asked to get the hard buckets in the paint. In exhibition play against West Florida, Jordan led the team with 15 points and eight rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the floor.
Voche’ Martin does her damage on the defensive side of the ball. Standing at 6-feet, 3-inches, she makes it difficult for the opposing team to get into the lane and score easy baskets.
“Martin’s impact may not show up on the stat sheet,” McNelis said. “Her impact goes beyond the stat sheet and her selflessness is something everybody on the team looks up to.”
Brooke Rhodes rounds out the starting five for the Lady Eagles. Rhodes has the most experience out of all her teammates and is the heart of the team on the court. In their first exhibition game, Southern Miss was without Preseason All-Conference forward, Tamara Jones.
Jones is expected to pick up the scoring the Golden Eagles lost when Jamierra Faulkner was selected by the Chicago Sky with the 34th overall pick in the 2014 WNBA draft. Jones enters her last season for Southern Miss and does not want it to end like her junior year did.
“To lose in double overtime to Mississippi State was crushing,” Jones said. “It also gave us confidence that we can play with not only teams in our conference, but teams in bigger schools too.”
That confidence is what the Lady Eagles are going to need if they want to dethrone Middle Tennessee, the reigning Conference USA champs and preseason pick to repeat. Southern Miss is projected to finish third in C-USA, but with a healthy Jones and focused supporting cast the Golden Eagles can be the surprise team to represent C-USA when the NCAA tournament begins.
Southern Miss starts the 2014 season with one goal in mind, to play for the C-USA championship in Birmingham, Alabama, for the chance to represent the conference in the NCAA tournament.