HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Lady Eagles face their toughest challenge of the season on Friday night when they welcome No. 5 Mississippi State to Reed-Green Coliseum.
After two straight National Champion runner-up finishes, the Lady Bulldogs lead the nation in scoring (93 points per game) nine games into the season.
State (9-0) is led by six-foot-seven center Teaira McCowan’s average of 19 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Coach Joye Lee-McNelis knows the challenge ahead when USM (6-3) tips it off against MSU on Friday at 6 p.m.
"We're excited about the opportunity,” McNelis said. “It is a challenge. Are they a great basketball club and very well-coached? Vic Schaefer has done a phenomenal job. Do we match up with them? Maybe if we stack a few players on top of each other's shoulders. That's about the only way we can do that. We have talked a lot to them about who we are. Mississippi State, everybody knows who they are. But we've got to be proud of who we are and what Southern Miss is all about. About being a blue-collar kid, we've got to do the work every single possession. Our goal obviously is to play hard, to give our best effort and who knows? That's why you tip it off every night."
Meanwhile, the men’s team is off to a 7-2 start – the best in coach Doc Sadler’s five seasons.
The Golden Eagles embark onto uncharted waters when they begin a six-game road trip at Wichita State on Saturday.
USM doesn’t return to Reed-Green until January 10 against Middle Tennessee – the Eagles will be three games into their Conference USA slate by then.
The road trip is a challenge coach Sadler and company embrace.
“I’ve never done it in 36 years of coaching,” Sadler said. “I’ve been asked, ‘How you gonna handle it?’ And I have no idea. It’s new for the first time. The only thing that I can try to do myself, and hopefully this is what we need to do as a team, is just go back to the old clichés that the old people always talk about. And that’s just play one day at a time and one game at a time.”