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Balanced Attack Leads Lady Eagles Past Middle Tennessee

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Four different Southern Miss players finished in double figures, as the Black and Gold held Middle Tennessee to a season-low 32.8 percent from the field to come away with a 69-61 victory Saturday afternoon at the Murphy Center.

“It’s a great win for us,” head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “I think it instills some belief that the hard work has paid off. We’ve had a lot of things go wrong for us, and thankfully something went right for us tonight.”

After McNelis challenged the two seniors following yesterday’s loss, Jalise Smallwood and Allie Kennedy rose to the occasion in game two of the series. Smallwood finished with a career-high 16 points and got the Lady Eagles going with seven of her 16 coming in the first period. She finished just shy of a double-double as she joined two other Golden Eagles with nine rebounds. Kennedy knocked down three 3’s in the contest, finishing 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and had a key block before halftime to keep the Middle lead at six going into the break.

Daishai Almond had her best game in a Lady Eagle uniform as she finished just shy of a triple-double. The Athens, Ga. native poured in 12 points, dished out a season-high eight assists and matched a career-high with nine rebounds in 34 minutes of action.

“Her response is what is important,” McNelis added on Almond’s performance. “She almost has a triple-double and I tell you, the thing that was most impressive about Dai was the leadership on the floor. I can’t say enough about Dai and her leadership tonight.”

Both teams went shot-for-shot in the first 10 minutes of action as Southern Miss attacked the paint, as they’ve done all season, and were able to score 12 of their 15 points inside of the lane. Middle Tennessee answered the Lady Eagles quick start with a 9-0 run to regain the lead, but a lay-up by Almond in the last minute help cut the deficit to 15-18 after the first stanza.

The Lady Raiders (7-4, 5-1 C-USA) capitalized on 10 Southern Miss turnovers in the second period to extend their lead out to as many as 13 midway through the quarter, but the Black and Gold settled in late and headed into the locker room on an 11-4 run and trailed by just six.

The run would continue out of the break as the Lady Eagles scored 12 of the first 13 points coming out of the half to jump ahead by three. Middle Tennessee kept fighting back and would take a five point lead into the final frame.

Southern Miss (3-5, 1-5 C-USA) locked in offensively and defensively in the final quarter. Trailing by two with just over six minutes left, freshman Rose Warren took over the game. The Puckett, Miss. native knocked down three 3’s in the span of four possessions and helped the Black and Gold grab a lead that they wouldn’t let go of as they sealed the win at the free throw line.

Anastasia Hayes, the nation’s leading scorer, was held without a point in the fourth quarter and had just five total points in the second half as Southern Miss held her to just 1-of-8 from the field in the closing twenty minutes of the game.

The Lady Eagles outrebounded the Lady Raiders 43-33 and handed Middle Tennessee their first Conference USA loss in nine games and just their 15th loss inside the Murphy Center under head coach Rick Insell.

Southern Miss will look to continue their winning ways next weekend as they return to Reed Green Coliseum to face off against UTSA. Tip-off is schedule for Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.