HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – The University of Southern Mississippi and University of Texas-San Antonio women’s basketball spent the better part of three quarters snarling at one another Saturday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum.
Then, come the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles clamped down, muzzling the Lady Roadrunners’ offense while pulling away to an 82-75 Conference USA victory.
USM (10-4, 2-1 C-USA) bounced back from a double-digit loss Thursday to visiting University of Texas-El Paso in large part by outscoring UTSA 22-10 over the final 10 minutes.
It could have been worse if it were not for UTSA senior guard Deja Cousin, who plopped in one 3-pointer and then banked in a second in the game’s final 57 seconds.
“We showed some growth,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “I thought we showed that we can handle some adversity and respond.”
All five USM starters scored in double figures, including sophomore forward Kelsey Jones, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“That was truly the difference, what we were able to get out of our post play,” Lee-McNelis said.
Senior forward Respect Leaphart finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals and senior guard Shonte Hailes scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Daishai Almond scored 12 points, collected four rebounds and handed out four assists. Senior wing Alarie Mayze capped the quintet with 11 points and six rebounds.
Sophomore guard Destiny Smith came off the bench for seven points, three rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes on the floor.
“She was our super sub (Saturday),” Lee-McNelis said. “She is continuing to get better each week, continuing to work.”
Smith said she’s trying to do her best when called upon.
“I just wanted to do my part on the court, and that was defending and rebounding,” Smith said. “It’s very difficult to stay focused, to stay determined, because you never know when your name will be called, when your time will come.
“But I feel like I was very prepared and ready to go play my role (Saturday).”
Freshman guard Mikayla Woods led UTSA (6-9, 2-2) with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists for
Junior guard Karrington Donald added 17 points and freshman forward Adryana Quezada hit 7-of-8 shots on the way to scoring 15 points.
Senior forwards Timea Toth and Evelyn Omemmah each grabbed eight rebounds for the Lady Roadrunners.
The Lady Eagles got an inkling early on of what they were in for Saturday evening.
USM turned in its most productive quarter of the season to open the game, scoring 26 points in the first quarter.
The Lady Eagles found themselves up nine points, but the Lady Roadrunners got within six at halftime and then shaved one more point off their deficit, heading into the final period down just 60-55.
But Jones scored the first five points of the quarter on a three-point play off an offensive rebound and then two more fouls shots on USM’s next possession.
Quezada’s jumper got UTSA back within 65-57, but the only other points managed in the quarter before Cousin’s treys in the final 57 seconds was a steal-and-layup by Woods.
During the stretch from Quezada’s jumper and Cousin’s first 3-pointer, USM outscored UTSA 15-2.
USM will take to the road for its first conference away games, visiting the University of North Texas at 7 p.m. Thursday in Denton, Texas.
The Mean Green (7-9, 1-3) suffered its third consecutive loss Saturday, dropping an 84-78 decision to Florida Atlantic University.