HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - University of Southern Mississippi senior guard Brittanny Dinkins scored the most points in her career Thursday night while posting an unusual double-double.
But the senior point guard received even more praise for her defense on the player who USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis called the best player in Conference USA.
Dinkins scored a personal-high 32 points while tying a single-game, school record with 10 steals as the Lady Eagles (11-5, 3-1 C-USA) got past Old Dominion University 84-69 at Green Coliseum.
Dinkins, who scored eight of USM's first 10 points and assisted on the other basket, dished out a game-high eight assists and grabbed a team-high five rebounds while not committing a turnover in 36 minutes on the court.
"I was just so glad to be back home at Reed Green," Dinkins said, USM's leading scorer at 16.4 points per game. "For me to get those baskets and that dish early, that was big for me."
Dinkins led a swarming defense that came up with 21 steals, the second-most by the Lady Eagles in a game this season, as USM won its third consecutive game.
Junior forward Jayla King added 17 points, while senior forward Lashyra Cotton and freshman guard Shonte Hailes each had eight points.
ODU (7-9, 2-3) committed 29 turnovers, as the Lady Monarchs lost for the sixth time in their last eight games.
USM outscored the Lady Monarchs 33 points to 17 points in points-off-turnovers, with the majority coming down low in transition. The Lady Eagles, who were out-rebounded 33-25 by the taller Lady Monarchs, outscored ODU 42-28 in points-in-the-paint.
ODU senior guard Jennie Sims scored a team-high 19 points, while guard MaKayla Timmons added 10.
Sims, who came into the game as the conference's top scorer at 24.7 points per game, was the nation's second-highest scorer. Two games ago, she set an ODU home-court record with 43 points in a win over Marshall.
With Dinkins providing the primary defense, Sims was held to more than five points below her season average.
"(Sims), she's the league's best player right now, a WNBA player, a pro player," Lee-McNelis said. "And Brittany did a fantastic job limiting the touches she got. It was really her defense on Sims that allowed us to win this game."
That, and a stick-to-it-iveness that got the Lady Eagles through tough spans in the latter two quarters.
First, the Lady Monarchs whittled a 14-point deficit to five points with two minutes to play in the third quarter. But sophomore guard Keri Jewett-Giles and King ended USM's scoring drought with back-to-back baskets, and Dinkins added a three-point play as the Lady Eagles took a 58-49 lead into the final period.
USM built its edge to 12 points when senior guard Tajanay Veiga rattled home a 3-point basket for a 70-58 lead with 5:10 left in the game.
Back came the Lady Monarchs, with senior forward Destinee Young following a breakaway basket with a three-point play to get ODU within 75-69 with 2:07 to play.
But those were the final points for ODU, as four Lady Eagles combined to score the final 11 points of the game, giving USM its most points scored in a conference game this season.
"I think it says a lot about this team that we didn't let them get any closer," Lee-McNelis said. "It would have been nicer if they hadn't gotten closer than 10, but it was just a very hard-fought game."
Men's basketball: Old Dominion 54, Southern Miss 50
Sophomore guard Cortez Edwards had a team-high 13 points, but it was not enough as the Monarchs outscored the Golden Eagles by 13 points from the foul line.
USM senior guard Michael Ramey had 11 points, in large part thanks to hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers. Senior forward Quiton Campbell, who had posted back-to-back, 20-point games, was limited to five points Thursday, but pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
ODU (11-6, 4-1 C-USA) outrebounded the Golden Eagles (5-11, 2-2) 43-29. Neither team shot well from the floor, with both hitting just a bit better than one out of every three shots.
The Monarchs also overwhelmed USM from the free-throw line, knocking down 19 of 27 free-throw attempts to the Golden Eagles' 6-of-8.
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