HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) _ After building a nine-point halftime lead Saturday evening at Reed Green Coliseum, the University of Southern Mississippi Lady Eagles fell victim to a malady that has plagued them often enough this basketball season.
USM simply could not find enough ways to get points on the scoreboard.
After whittling its deficit to four points after three quarters by holding the Lady Eagles to just six points in the period, Old Dominion University finished off the comeback by making more shots down the stretch in a 53-50 decision.
ODU guard Victoria Morris knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in a 43-second stretch of the fourth quarter to tie the game with 3:45 to play and Taylor Edwards’ shot-clock-beating drive down the lane put the Lady Monarchs ahead for good in the waning seconds as USM managed just six baskets in the second half.
“What it boils down to is this: Players make plays,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “And that’s what their players did.
“Players have to execute, and they executed better than we did.”
For the fourth time in six Conference USA games, USM (9-10, 1-5 C-USA) scored 50 points or less as the Lady Eagles lost for the sixth time in seven games.
“We didn’t make plays when we needed,” Lee-McNelis said. “We didn’t do a very good job on offense or defense in crunch time.”
ODU center Dejah Carter, who scored six of her team’s final eight points, scored in the low post to break a 45-45 tie and give the Lady Monarchs their first lead of the game, then added a pair of free throws on the next possession for four-point lead with 2:05 to play.
USM came back to tie the game on freshman center Kelsey Jones’ two free throws and a steal and layup by junior guard Alaire Mayze.
But after Edwards scored on her all-or-nothing rush to the basket, Jones missed the second of two free throws to leave the Lady Monarchs ahead 51-50.
Carter, who was fouled after rebounding Jones’ missed foul shot, connected on both of her free throws with 5.6 seconds to play, and a desperation 3-pointer by the Lady Eagles fell fall short as ODU (13-5, 4-2) swept a two-game road swing at Louisiana Tech and USM.
While ODU shot just 36.7 percent for the game from the floor, the Lady Monarchs hit 7-of-9 shots in the fourth quarter. ODU stayed in the game by outrebounding USM 42-30, including 12 offensive rebounds.
“They totally dominated the glass,” Lee-McNelis said, “and that was the difference in the game.
“That, and we were just not able to execute, offensively or defensively, in crunch time.”
Carter led ODU with 14 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, while Edwards finished with nine points, seven assists and three steals.
Jones came off the bench for 11 points and five rebounds for USM and senior wing Megan Brown had 10 points for the Lady Eagles.
USM will take to the road next week, starting with a 7 p.m. visit at Western Kentucky University Thursday in Bowling Green, Ky.