HOUSTON, TX (WDAM) - A University of Southern Mississippi rally that shriveled a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit to four points before running out of steam in the end Thursday night as Rice University held on for a 62-56 Conference USA victory.
USM senior forward Jayla King scored 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds and came up with three steals to pace the Lady Eagles, while junior guard Megan Brown added 11 points and six rebounds and junior guard Alaire Mayze had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Mayze started at point guard in place of sophomore Shonte Hailes, who missed the game with an ankle injury. Hailes, who has made a team-best 19 baskets from 3-point range, leads the Lady Eagles with 5.5 assists a game and is second at 13.2 points per game.
"We played extremely hard," USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. "We made defensive stop after defensive stop, but we could not get a bucket to close the gap.
"I cannot say enough about how proud of I am."
Lee-McNelis said Hailes' absence hurt.
"We're playing with a freshman, Allie Kennedy, and someone who has never played point guard, Alaire Mayze, at the point," Lee-McNelis said. "Our defensive effort, the intensity, kept us in the game and kept us fighting. To come to Rice, with their record and without Shonte Hailes, and play the way we did? You can't walk out of this building disappointed."
Rice (17-3, 7-1 C-USA), which is off to the best start in the program's history, won its 12th consecutive home game. The Lady Owls, who boast the conference's stingiest scoring defense, held an opponent to 60 points or less for the fourth consecutive game.
USM (12-9, 4-4) trailed by just a point after one quarter, 16-15, before the Lady Owls outscored the Lady Eagles 19-12 in the second period to open an eight-point lead at halftime, 35-27.
The Lady Eagles scrambled back, using a 9-0 run to get within 38-36 with 4:29 to play in the quarter. But Rice returned the favor with an 8-0 spurt to close out the period with a 46-36 lead.
Rice's lead quickly grew to 16 points after the Lady Owls opened the fourth quarter on a 10-4 run. USM fought back, getting within 58-54, but Rice made its free throws down the stretch to close out the game.
Sophomore guard Erica Ogwumkie posted her third consecutive double-double, posting team highs with 17, 10 rebounds and five steals. Senior guard Wendy Knight scored in double figures for the 10th consecutive game, going for 13 points and eight rebounds.
USM will return to Reed Green Coliseum at 2 p.m. Sunday to welcome Marshall University.