Lady Eagle late free throws aid in come-from-behind victory over Middle Tennessee 70-65 in OT

Lady Eagle late free throws aid in come-from-behind victory over Middle Tennessee 70-65 in OT

This is a news release from Southern Miss athletics

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Tamara Jones and Jerontay Clemons recorded double-doubles and the Lady Eagles connected on 9-of-11 free throws in the final two minutes in taking a 70-65 overtime win against Middle Tennessee in Conference USA action Thursday night.

Southern Miss improved to 14-7 overall and 7-3 in league play while Middle Tennessee dropped to 14-6 and 8-2.

"You have to applaud Middle Tennessee on how they defended us tonight," head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. "They defended unbelievable on us and did a great job. We were not real poised and we were out of rhythm. Again, you have to give them credit because of their defense.

"We challenged out players at halftime, especially Tamara Jones," McNelis said. "She stepped up and played much better the second half. It was an ugly game offensively, but a great game defensively."

Jones finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals while Clemons added 20 points and 10 rebounds. Brittanny Dinkins chipped in 13 points off the bench.

The Lady Eagles took control in the overtime as Jones hit a basket and followed with one of two free throws for the 59-56 lead. Middle Tennessee answered to cut the lead to one, before the Lady Eagles took advantage of free throws to seal the win. Jones and Alex Coyne hit a pair of free throw each to push the lead to 63-58. After the Blue Raiders hit a jumper, Jones then hit Clemons on the "homerun" pass for a basket. MT cut the lead to three with 26 seconds remaining, but Jones connected on 4-of-4 from the line in the final 20 seconds to seal the win.

Southern Miss trailed 47-38 with 6:44 remaining in regulation when the Lady Eagles scored seven unanswered points to cut the lead to 47-45. The Blue Raiders hit a three to push the lead back to five. Clemons added a basket and free throw in cutting the lead to two, 50-48. MT then scored four unanswered points in taking a 54-48 lead with 2:05 remaining. Dinkins then hit a three from the left wing to get the score to 54-51. MT added a free throw before Jones hit a wide open three from the left corner to get the Lady Eagles within one with 58 seconds remaining. The Blue Raiders made one-of-two from the line for the two-point advantage. With 28 seconds remaining in the game, Southern Miss ran some time off the clock before Clemons tied the game on a pull-up jumper from the left side with 12.2 records remaining. MT has a chance to win in regulation, but missed its final three shots.

Southern Miss trailed26-25 at the half. The teams battled back and forth throughout the first half. The Lady Eagles finished the first half shooting 48 percent from the field while outscoring MT 18-10 in the paint and had 15 points off 12 Blue Raider turnovers.

Cheyenne Parker led all scorers with a game-high 23 points to go with 14 rebounds. Olivia Jones added 11 points and Shanice Cason recorded a double-double 10 points and 10 rebounds.

"Cheyenne Parker and Chastity Gooch of Western Kentucky are arguably the best two post players in our league," McNelis said. "Cheyenne presents problem because of her length, her bounce and her athleticism. When she posts up, it doesn't matter how you try to guard, because she is so long and she seals so well. You can't give a whole lot of help because of their three-ball shooters. She presented us with some problems and we knew that coming into the game."

Southern Miss shot 4.3 percent from the field and just 59.1 percent from the line. The Lady Eagles also held a 44-43 rebounding edge.

The Lady Eagles return to action on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tip against UAB.