The University of Southern Mississippi climbed the mountain Saturday evening at Green Coliseum, but the Lady Eagles never quite could get over the hump.
USM erased a 14-point, first-quarter deficit against the University of Charlotte, catching the Lady 49ers late in the third quarter.
But behind the post play of junior Nyilah Jamison-Myers, Charlotte pulled away again over the game’s final 12 minutes to take a 78-61 Conference USA victory over the Lady Eagles.
“We played hard, but we did not play smart,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “We just did not play within ourselves.
“This game will not define us. We’re better than this. But what it does say is that Charlotte is a very good basketball team, a very well-coached basketball team.”
The Lady Eagles (11-6, 3-2 C-USA) saw a three-game winning streak snapped while dropping just only their second game at home.
The Lady 49ers (13-4, 5-1) won for the 10th time in 11 games, bouncing back from a 22-point loss Thursday at Louisiana Tech.
Jamison-Myers scored 17 of her team-high 23 points in the second half, including nine in the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-3 forward, who hit 11 of 12 shots from the floor, also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
“Against Louisiana Tech, she was a total non-factor, and she just destroyed us (Saturday),” Lee-McNelis said. “She just burned us.”
Jamison-Myers had plenty of help, with Charlotte’s entire starting lineup scoring at least 10 points.
Sophomore guard Grace Hunter scored 19 points, had six rebounds and five assists, senior guard Lefty Webster added 14 points and senior guard Ciara Gregory had 10 points.
Sophomore point guard Laia Gregory scored 10 points, dished out eight of Charlotte’s 22 assists and grabbed six rebounds.
The Lady 49ers shot better than 58.3 percent in three of Saturday’s four quarters, finishing at 58.8 percent (30 of 51) from the field.
“They can shoot the cover off the ball,” Lee-McNelis said.
After posting the first 30-point game of her career Thursday night, USM senior guard Brittanny Dinkins had a game-high 25 points Saturday to go with four rebounds, four assists and six steals.
But Dinkins needed 22 shots to get there as the Lady Eagles struggled to find the range as a team, shooting just 35.7 percent from the floor.
Sophomore guard Keri Jewett-Giles came off the bench for 17 points, but beyond Dinkins, the rest of USM’s starting lineup combined for five baskets and 16 points.
“We’re a team, and we need everybody,” Dinkins said, “and we just ourselves in the foot.”
The foot-shooting started early.
USM trailed 23-9 after the first quarter, failing to score a basket over the final 7 minutes, 11 seconds, as Charlotte closed the period on a 16-1 run. The Lady Eagles managed to make just three baskets in the first 10 minutes of the game, hitting just 3 of their first 16 shots (18.8 percent).
But USM came out ferocious in the second quarter. A steal by Dinkins led to a layup by freshman guard Shonte Hailes, and when junior guard Brittny Norris made 1 of 2 free throws after a Charlotte turnover, the Lady Eagles had cut their deficit to 31-27 with 2:57 to play in the period.
Hunter hit a jumper and scored again in the low post to push the Lady 49ers’ lead back to eight points, but Dinkins’ 3-pointer with 31.4 seconds left sent the Lady Eagles into the locker room trailing 35-30.
Charlotte bumped its lead back to 10 to open the third quarter, but the Lady Eagles chipped away at the lead, eventually tying the game on Dinkins’ baseline jumper with 3:31 left in the quarter.
But Webster hit a 3-pointer with just 2 seconds on the shot clock, Jamison-Myers scored down low and Raventos added a free throw to leave the Lady 49ers up 53-47 going into the fourth quarter.
For the Lady Eagles, the final period was much like the first.
Giles’ 3-pointer got USM to within 53-50 less than a minute into the quarter, but it was one of only four baskets the Lady Eagles managed, shooting just 26.7 percent from the field down the stretch.
Sparked by five points apiece from Jamison-Myers and Hunter, the Lady 49ers snapped off a 12-3 run that gave Charlotte a 12-point lead. USM never recovered.
The Lady Eagles will hit the road for a Texas two-step next week, visiting the University of North Texas at 7 p.m. Thursday and Rice University at 2 p.m. Saturday.