HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ The University of Southern Mississippi got hurt by long-range shooting at the beginning and down the stretch of its women’s basketball game Thursday night with visiting Marshall University.
Marshall hit seven 3-pointers in the first half to grab a 12-point halftime lead, and then knocked down four more in a game-closing 25-13 run that cinched an 80-65 Conference USA at Reed Green Coliseum.
“Hats off to Marshall,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “They can really shoot the basketball.”
Even when standing still.
The Thundering Herd (9-12, 4-6 C-USA) knocked down 19-of-30 free throws, nailing a little less two of every three of their attempts.
By contrast, USM (11-10, 3-7) managed just 10 visits to the foul line and made just four.
Still, the bigger issue with USM has been the absence of senior point guard Shone Hailes, who missed her second full game since being injured in the first at Old Dominion University on Jan. 30.
“Late in the game, the ball goes to Shonte, that’s all there is to it,” Lee-McNelis said. “Not only are we without her, but it also messes up our rotations.”
After a 4-4 tie, Marshall abruptly pulled away, eventually leading 21-8 after the first quarter. The Golden Eagles picked up the pace in the second quarter, outscoring the Herd 24-23, but still trailed Marshall 44-32 at halftime.
The momentum stayed with USM, who battled to within four points twice before heading into the final period trailing by six points.
“Our thinking was that they would not make enough threes to keep us in it, and that’s what happened,” Lee-McNelis said.
USM twice got within three points twice, first, on a Dashai Almond jumper with 8 minutes, 57 seconds, left in the game.
USM junior guard Allie Kennedy then stole the ball, giving the Golden Eagles a chance to pull even closer. But Kennedy had the ball stole back, and the turnover led to a breakaway layup by guard Kristen Mayo and a 55-50 Marshall lead.
Senior wing Alarie Mayze rebounded her own miss and scored to get USM back within 55-52.
That was the Golden Eagles’ highwater mark.
Mayo popped a 3-pointer at the other end, and two bad USM shots led to a pair of free throws and a layup to take Marshall’s three-point lead back to double digits at 62-52.
Mayze, who matched her career high with 19 points, popped a 3-pointer, but Marshall forward Taylor Pearson answered with her own trey as the Herd thundered away.
Mayo and Pearson would both another 3-pointer each, and USM never got closer than eight points.
“I thought we fought hard,” Lee-McNelis said. “I do not think we played very smart.
“We took bad shots. We shot jumpers, when we could have been dropping the ball inside … But we had four turnovers in the last two minutes, and when you do that, you don’t deserve to win.”
Mayze added four rebounds and four assists to go with her scoring. Senior forward Respect Leaphart came on in the second half to finish with 16 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
Sophomore forward Kelsey Jones had 10 points and five rebounds.
Pearson led the Herd in scoring hitting 7-of-11 shots, including 6-of-9 shot from beyond the arc, to score a game-high 21 points.
Forward Princess Clemons added 14 points and eight rebounds. Guard Savannah Wheeler made just 1-of-9 shots but hit 10-of-13 free throws to finish with 12 points and five rebounds.
Mayo also scored 12 points, all in the final period.
USM, which has lost six consecutive games, will welcome Western Kentucky University to Reed Green Coliseum at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Lady Hilltoppers (15-6, 7-3) won their fifth consecutive game with an 84-75 decision on the road at Louisiana Tech University.