NATCHITOCHES, La. - From Special Reports:
Senior forward Jayla King scored 25 points and Coach Joye Lee-McNelis logged her 450th career victory as the University of Southern Mississippi defeated Northwestern State University 71-59 Tuesday night at Prather Coliseum.
Lee-McNelis became the 41st active Division I women's basketball coach to reach that milestone.
USM (6-1) expanded a 30-35 halftime lead by outscoring the Lady Demons 30-9 in the third quarter. Northwestern, which made just 12 baskets through three quarters, made 10 baskets in the final period, outscoring the Lady Eagles 25-10 for the game's final margin.
The 30-point quarter was the most points by the Lady Eagles in a period this season.
"It all happened because we had the right combinations in during the length of the game," Lee-McNelis said. "We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but we survived."
King hit the 25-point-plus mark for the second time this season. She led the Lady Eagles with six rebounds while adding three steals and two assists.
Junior guard Megan Brown had 14 points and four assists and sophomore guard Shonte Hailes added nine points, five rebounds and a team-high five assists.
"I'm proud of the way Jayla, Megan and Shonte played," Lee-McNelis said. "They have become our big three. It's very obvious that's who they are."
King and Hailes came off the bench for the first time this season, with freshmen guards Allie Kennedy and Hannah Lott making the first starts of their career. Junior forward Amber Landing had four points and four blocked shots Tuesday.
Forward Cheyenne Brown led Northwestern State (3-3) with 21 points and four rebounds. Guard Nautica Grant added 14 points and five assists and guard Jasmyn Johnson finished with 10 points, four assists and three steals.
USM returns to Reed Green Coliseum at 6 p.m. Thursday to host the University of South Alabama. The Lady Eagles then hit the road for three of the next four games, including trips to the University of Mississippi (Dec. 12), Samford University (Dec. 19) and Georgia Tech University (Dec. 21).
"We've got to lace up our shoes and be ready because it is not easy from here on out," Lee-McNelis said.