HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ A lopsided second quarter doomed the University of Southern Mississippi in an 89-72 Conference USA loss to visiting University of Texas-El Paso Thursday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
Trailing by three coming out the first period, the Lady Eagles were outscored 28-11 in the second, falling behind by 2o points at halftime.
The Lady Miners built the lead to as much as 27 points in the third quarter before USM rallied.
The Lady Eagles cut the deficit down to eight points, 80-72, with 4 minutes to play, but two free throws by Destiny Smith were the last points USM would score.
UTEP freshman guard Katia Gallegos scored the last nine points of the game on six free throws and a 3-pointer as the Lady Miners (10-4, 3-0 C-USA) remained atop the conference standings.
“They're very good,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “They're very poised. They run everything like it's a machine. They don't make a lot of mistakes, so you have to force them to make one.
“They're making a turnaround from where they were a year ago with all those injuries. Their freshmen have really bought into Kevin Baker's culture and to what he expects. Any time a team struggles and makes a comeback, I'm proud of them. Hats off to him. They very well may be the best team in the league."
The Lady Eagles (9-4, 1-1) lost for the only the second time in 10 home games.
Senior guard Shonte Hailes led the Lady Eagles with 28 points and four assists. Sophomore forward Kelsey Jones added 12 points and freshman guard Liz Gibbs came off the bench for a season-high 10 points. Sophomore Daishai Almond handed out seven assists.
Gallegos finished with 23 points, eight assists and five rebounds and senior wing Katarina Zec had 21 points and four steals for the Lady Miners. Sophomore forward Ariana Taylor added 14 points and a game nine rebounds, as UTEP outrebounded USM 39-28.
UTEP senior forward Ariona Gill chipped in 13 points and five rebounds.
The Lady Eagles will wrap up a four-game homestand at 4 p.m. Saturday, welcoming the University of Texas-San Antonio to Reed Green Coliseum.
The Lady Roadrunners (6-8, 2-1) defeated Louisiana Tech University 82-73 Thursday.