HATTIESBURG, MS - The Southern Miss women's basketball team defeated the South Alabama Jaguars 71-51 at home on Sunday. The Lady Eagles improve to 5-2 while the Jaguars drop to 2-4.
Jerontay Clemons led the way with 17 points, while Brittanny Dinkins added 15 points. Jayla King and Caitlin Jenkins had 11 points and seven rebounds apiece. Keri Jewett-Giles handed a team best 11 assists while adding another 10 points for the Black and Gold.
"Keri-Jewett has had two practices that have been very good, she's been unbelievable. Today we were able to see what we saw against Alabama State where she has great ability and again, that improvement for her was huge," Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said.
"Jerontay Clemons played better today, and she was able to finish some shots where before she has struggled. Dinkins shot the ball better today than she has been. When players really put in the time, and they reap the rewards, that is so special for them and it's truly a joy to be able to coach."
The Lady Eagles shot 45.9 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from the line, while South Alabama shot 34.0 percent from the field and 72.7 from the line. Southern Miss was 7 of 12 from behind the arc, while the Jaguars were 3 of 9. The teams ended the game with 34 rebounds each.
Southern Miss scored 32 points off of South Alabama's 25 turnovers.
"I said in our pregame that our defense was going to be the key for us to be successful today," McNelis said. "We are very fortunate that at the times where we cannot score offensively, our defense cranks it up and gives us opportunities to score the ball."
"We had 22 assists to 28 baskets, that's what you want. That makes you a real team."
Clemons scored the first basket of the game nearly two minutes into the first quarter to put the Lady Eagles up 2-0. The Jaguars answered with a 4-0 run, but Southern Miss regained the lead again with a three pointer from King. With two minutes left in the quarter, the Lady Eagles went on an 8-0 run sparked by Dinkins' two threes and an assist to Clemons to put them up 17-9. The Lady Eagles finished the quarter leading 19-13.
Dinkins opened the second quarter with her third three of the game. The Jaguars continued trying to chip away at the lead, coming within three points after going on a 6-0 run, but the Lady Eagles quickly stretched the lead back to 26-19. With 4:18 remaining in the quarter, back-to-back threes from Veiga and Jewett-Giles spurred a 10-0 run that gave the Lady Eagles a 14-point lead. Southern Miss headed into halftime leading South Alabama 36-22.
The Lady Eagles shot 46.4 percent from the field in the first half, including six three-pointers, compared to 29.6 percent for the Jaguars. Southern Miss outrebounded South Alabama 20 to 16.
The Black and Gold's lead was steady throughout the second half. South Alabama cut it under ten after making two free throws with 4:54 left in the third quarter, but two steals in a row led to Veiga scoring four unanswered points for the Lady Eagles to stretch the lead back to 46-31. Southern Miss outscored the Jaguars 16-14 in the third quarter to lead 52-36 after the first thirty minutes of play.
In the final quarter, the Lady Eagles continued to hold off the South Alabama offense and maintain their double-digit lead. Two back-to-back three point plays in the final five minutes spurred another run that gave Southern Miss their largest lead of the day.
With 5:10 left in the game, Dinkins made a steal and fed it to Clemons, who made the layup and drew a foul. A minute later, Jenkins made a basket and a free throw to put Southern Miss up 66-42. Baskets from Jewett-Giles and Clemons stretched the lead to 71-42. The Jaguars scored nine unanswered points to end the game with a final score of 71-51.
"We made a step in the Tennessee Tech game, and we made another step tonight with this win," McNelis said. "We are pleased with our progress, but never satisfied, as coaches never are. There's so much potential with this group. They're playing hard together, their chemistry is really developing and that's a lot of fun to coach."
Colby Davis and Juliann Miller led South Alabama with 16 points apiece. Miller also grabbed a team best 8 rebounds for the Jaguars.