Jan. 5, 2012
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- Southern Miss (6-8, 0-1) could not overcome a 22-point first half deficit in losing to Tulsa (6-6, 1-0) in the conference opener, 68-57, Thursday night.
"The only player I can sit and applaud for 40 minutes of the ball is Nitesha Pierce," Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. "She is the only reason we were only down 20 at the half. She was unbelievable. We say her take this team on her shoulders. She finished with a double-double."
Nitesha Pierce paced Southern Miss with a game-high 22 points to go with 10 rebounds, followed by Tanecka Carey with 13 and Jamierra Faulkner chipped in 12 points and handed out nine assists.
Tulsa placed four players in double figure scoring led by Taleya Mayberry with 16 points followed by Taylor Hooker with 13, Chanice Scott had 11 and Loren McDaniel added 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Trailing 41-21at the break, Southern Miss opened the second half by quickly shaving off seven points when Carey and Faulkner combined for the first 11 points. Tulsa was able to maintain its 17-point lead until Southern Miss scored 10 unanswered points over a 3:31 span to cut the lead to just seven, 53-48, with 7:46 remaining. Scott then hit the Hurricane's only three-pointer of the game in pushing the lead to 10, 56-46. A Niesha Pierce put back got the lead under 10 before Mayberry answered with a jumper to keep the lead at 10. Nitesha Pierce got a steal and a layup before Jessica McQuin answered with a bucket. Carey then connected on a three-pointer to cut the lead to seven, 60-53, with 3:29 remaining and that was as close as USM would get. Tulsa closed out the game hitting 6-of-7 free throws over the final 1:11 of the game.
"We were not ready to play tonight and it all started in our warm-up," said McNelis. "We had no energy to start the game. That's what happened at Mississippi State and Montana. We challenged them at the half and they came out and played well. I'm just disappointed in our overall effort in the first half. I thought we fought hard in the second half. You have to give Tulsa a tremendous amount of credit because they just punched us in the mouth."
The teams started out evenly for the first three minutes of play until Tulsa got a combined six points from Hooker and Mayberry that included four points off consecutive steals and layups. A Faulkner jumper and Nitesha Pierce free throw cut the lead to 12-9. From there, Tulsa used a 14-2 run over 4:52 in taking a double digit lead at 26-11. Nitesha Pierce finally ended the Lady Eagle drought at the 8:09 mark in the half. For the final eight minutes, Tulsa outscored Southern Miss 15-8 to take a 41-21 lead into the locker-room.
Southern Miss returns home to host Houston at 2 p.m., on Sunday. It will be $1 Day. Fans can get into the game with $1 and buy hot dogs, drink and popcorn for $1 each.