For the better part of the third quarter Tuesday night at Reed Green Coliseum, the University of Southern Mississippi women’s basketball team could not buy a basket.
For the better part of the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles could not miss, from floor or the foul line.
The first circumstance cost USM a nine-point halftime lead against the visiting University of Mississippi.
The latter allowed the Lady Eagles to pull off a 59-53 victory over the Lady Rebels before an announced 1,843.
“What a great basketball game,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “Unbelievable.”
Back-to-back jumpers by sophomore Kelsey Jones and senior Shonte Halies gave the Lady Eagles a four-point cushion with less than 90 seconds to play.
A jumper by Ole Miss freshman Jayla Alexander cut the lead to 55-53 with 43 seconds to play, but those were the final points of the game for the Lady Rebels.
Senior Respect Leaphart and sophomore Dashani Almond each hit a pair of free throws in the final 12 seconds as the Lady Eagles (4-1) won their third consecutive game.
The Lady Eagles are off to their best start since 2017-18.
Hailes finished with a game-high 17 points, just two points shy of joining the career 1,000-point club. She also had three steals.
“The major key for us was the play of senior Shonte Hailes,” Lee-McNelis said. “Unbelievable. She had fire, she took control of the game, she did not run away from the basketball, she wanted the ball to make the play, defensively she helped us.
“But we had different players at different times that made big plays for us.”
Senior Alaire Mayze added 11 points, four rebounds and three assists, Jones had 10 points and four rebounds and Lephart finished with nine points and two assists.
Junior Dominique Banks led the Lady Rebels (2-2) with 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists and Alexander had 11 points and three assists. Freshman Sarah Dumitrescu finished with as game-high nine rebounds
USM led 31-22 at halftime, but then made just 2-of-10 shots from the floor in the third quarter as the Lady Rebels stormed back to erase their deficit. A jumper by Banks lifted Ole Miss to a 37-34 lead, but Almond cracked the lane for a layup to get the Lady Eagles within 37-36 heading in the final quarter.
Ole Miss built its largest lead of the game, 45-40, on an Alexander 3-pointer with 7:17 left to play.
But buckets by Jones and Haies got USM within a point, and then Hailes made a reverse layup, was fouled and hit the free throw to put the Lady Eagles up by two, 47-45.
Ole Miss would tie the game three times over the next 65 seconds, before USM took control down the stretch.
The Lady Eagles will return to Reed Green Coliseum at 4 p.m. on Nov. 29, facing Mississippi Valley State University on the first day of the Lady Eagle Classic.