Southern Miss moves into Conference USA semifinals

Southern Miss moves into Conference USA semifinals
The Mississippi High School Activities Association basketball playoffs are now in the semifinal round, and eight teams from the Pine Belt are trying to play their way into championship games. (Photo source: Raycom Image Bank)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WDAM) - Forward Lashyra Cotton's jumper with 34 seconds to play broke a tie and the University of Southern Mississippi defeated Old Dominion University 80-74 victory Thursday night at Bartow Arena in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Conference USA Women's Basketball Tournament.

The third-seeded Lady Eagles (22-9) move into a 7 p.m. semifinal game today with second-seeded Middle Tennessee State University at Legacy Arena. MTSU (20-9) defeated 10th-seeded Rice 61-59 in a Thursday quarterfinal.

USM led by four points after one quarter, but trailed by 11 at halftime after the sixth-seeded Lady Monarchs (17-14) outscored the Lady Eagles 26-11 in the second quarter.

But USM outscored by eight points in the third period and 22-13 in the fourth, including the final six points of the game to break a 74-74 tie.

After Cotton's go-ahead basket, guard Shonte Hailes made a layup with 9 seconds to play and guard Megan Brown iced the win with two free throws with 1 second left in the game.

ODU struggled from the floor in the end, making just two of its last 12 field-goal attempts.

The Lady Eagles' defensive pressure forced 22 ODU turnovers, with 11 coming off USM steals. The turnovers led to USM breakaways as the Lady Eagles outscored the Lady Monarchs 44-22 in points in the paint.

Cotton finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, while guard Brittanny Dinkins led the Lady Eagles with a team-high 25 points and three assists.

Forward Jayla King added 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out. Guard Keri Jewett-Giles had eight points and seven rebounds, while Brown finished with eight points and four assists.

ODU standout guard Jennie Simms scored a game-high 33 points, a performance that included a 13-for-13 effort from the free-throw line. She also grabbed eight rebounds and handed out six assists.

Forward Annika Holopainen backed Simms with 16 points and 11 rebounds.