Lady Eagles open WNIT play Wednesday

Lady Eagles open WNIT play Wednesday
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)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi will take women's basketball's center stage Wednesday.

USM (23-10) will host the University of Arkansas-Little Rock (24-8) at Green Coliseum as the first and only opening-round game of the 2017 Women's National Invitational Tournament.

Game time is set to be announced today.

The USM-UALR winner game will take on the winner of the University of Alabama-Mercer University's opening-round game.

The game marks the 12th meeting between the teams, with the Lady Trojans holding a 4-7 edge.

The Lady Eagles, who won 12 of their final 14 games, will be making their sixth WNIT appearance and third in the past four years. In their last appearance, USM fell to the University of Michigan 69-60 in 2015 WNIT semifinals before the largest crowd (5,480) to attend a women's basketball in Hattiesburg.

The Lady Eagles, which finished third in Conference USA during the regular season, fell 67-56 to Western Kentucky University in Saturday's championship game of the C-USA Tournament to fall just shy of earning the USM program's ninth NCAA Tournament bid.

Instead, the Lady Eagles were one of three, C-USA teams to receive WNIT at-large bids, joined by Louisiana Tech University and Middle Tennessee State University.

Arkansas-Little Rock went 17-1 to claim the Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship. That earned the Lady Trojans automatic entry into the NWIT after they were upset in last week's Sun Belt Tournament semifinals by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Lady Trojans will be making their fifth NWIT appearance and second in a row. Arkansas-Little Rock has gone 0-4 in the NWIT, including a 67-57, opening-round loss at USM in 2008 in the Lady Trojans' inaugural NWIT appearance.

Arkansas-Little Rock has won 20 games or more in 10 the past 11 years and will be making its ninth postseason appearance in the past 10 years, including five NCAA berths.

The Lady Trojans are ranked No. 48 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index, while the Lady Eagles were No. 102.