From University of Southern Mississippi Sports Information Department
RUSTON, La. (WDAM) - Senior Respect Leaphart scored 22 points and hauled down eight rebounds as the University of Southern Mississippi held off Louisiana Tech University 63-61 Thursday night.
It was USM’s first women’s basketball victory at Thomas Assembly Center since 2015 and gave the Golden Eagles a series sweep of the Lady Techsters.
“It’s been a long time,” USM coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “It is so hard to hear in this arena. Their band is loud, and the way it echos, you’re just yelling at the top of your lungs to get your players to see and understand what you want.”
The Golden Eagles understood well enough to pick up their third consecutive Conference USA victory after snapping a seven-game losing streak last weekend.
USM (14-11, 6-8 C-USA) has been without stalwart senior point guard Shonte Hailes, who went down with an undisclosed injury seven games and hasn’t played since.
“We’ve never wavered, we’ve never used Shonte as an excuse - that we don’t have her,” Lee-McNelis said. "We have challenged them every single day and have pushed them and they have bought in to saying, ‘We will not be denied,’ and they have continued to grind.
"It’s nothing we’ve done differently as coaches. It’s that they have decided, ‘Let’s get it done.' The (last) three (games) we’ve won have gone to the wire, we have found a way to win."
The teams took turns gaining the upper hand. Tech (12-13, 4-10) led by as many eight points in the second quarter before settling for a 33-28 halftime lead.
USM then seized control, outscoring Tech 28-13 in the third quarter to take a 51-46 into the fourth quarter. Tech outscored the Golden Eagles 15-12 in the final 10 minutes of the game, tying the game at 59-59.
But USM sophomore forward Kelsey Jones hit a layup to give the Golden Eagles the lead for good.
Tech hurt its cause with 24 turnovers.
Jones and senior wing Alaire Mayze each scored 10 points, while sophomore point guard Daishai Almond scored nine points, handed out five assists and grabbed five rebounds.
Tech got 14 points, two steals, two assists and two blocked shots from junior guard Raizel Guinto and eight points and seven rebounds from freshman forward Anna Larr Roberson.
USM will host the University of North Carolina-Charlotte at 4 p.m. Saturday at Reed Green Coliseum.