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Jones Leads Southern Miss Past LA Tech

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – A career night from center Kelsey Jones and the best defensive effort of the season was just what the Lady Eagles needed to bounce back from Thursday’s loss in Ruston. The Starkville, Miss. native recorded a career-high 22 points and a season-high 13 rebounds to guide the Black and Gold past Louisiana Tech, 57-44, Saturday afternoon in Reed Green Coliseum.

“Kelsey got a lot of buckets off of offensive rebounds and really crashed the boards,” head coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “I think she was a difference maker. She was kind of like the beast inside. It was very positive for us and that’s why I think we were able to be successful.”

The double-double was the eighth of her career and just her first this season. Jones and teammate Fess Hawkins are the only two Lady Eagles to record a double-double so far this season.

The 44 points were the fewest Southern Miss (6-6, 4-6 C-USA) has allowed this season and the first time the Lady Techsters (10-6, 5-5 C-USA) haven’t reached the 50 point mark since a year ago today against Charlotte.

Fellow veteran Jalise Smallwood got the offense going in the first quarter, hitting a 3-pointer on the game’s first shot. Smallwood scored five of the first eight points for Southern Miss as the Black and Gold found themselves down 14-17 after the opening period.

In a defensive second quarter, the Lady Eagles fed the ball, scoring 12 of their 13 points inside of the paint. Active hands on defense for the Golden Eagles forced eight Lady Techster turnovers that Southern Miss converted into eight points. The Black and Gold held LA Tech to just 3-of-11 shooting in the stanza to go into the locker room with a 27-24 advantage.

The third quarter was defined by a pair of runs from both teams. A 7-0 push coming out of the break from the Lady Eagles drove the advantage to double digits midway through the third. Tech would close the period on an 8-0 run using a pair of 3’s in the final 1:07 to cut the Southern Miss lead to just one at 40-39 going in the final ten minutes of play.

The Black and Gold went into lockdown mode defensively in the final quarter and couldn’t miss from long range to run away with the ballgame. Smallwood knocked down her second shot from deep to open the quarter and freshmen Kahia Warmsley and Rose Warren followed in the senior’s shoes knocking down 3’s of their own to up the Southern Miss lead to seven. The Lady Eagles didn’t allow a field goal over the final 8:22 of the game and held Tech to just 1-of-13 in the last quarter to earn a much need C-USA victory.

Jones, Smallwood and point guard Daishai Almond all finished in double figures for Southern Miss, while Warmsley doubled her previous career-high of four rebounds, grabbing eight tonight.

Southern Miss returns to Reed Green Coliseum next weekend to face off with Rice. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT on Friday and 4 p.m. CT on Saturday.