March 7, 2012
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Southern Miss guard Jamierra Faulkner posted game highs with 20 points and six assists as the ninth-seeded Lady Eagles soared past No. 8 seed UCF, 71-49, in the first round of the 2012 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship on Wednesday evening at the University of Memphis' Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
UCF out-rebounded Southern Miss 46-30, held a 24-8 edge on the offensive glass and had 17 second-chance point. The Lady Eagles, however, forced 22 turnovers - including 10 via steal - turned the miscues into 28 points and scored 12 points on the fast break.
With the win, Southern Miss improves to 13-17 on the year and advances to play regular-season C-USA champs and top-seeded UTEP (26-3) on Thursday in the quarterfinals. Tipoff for that game is slated for 5 p.m. UCF, meanwhile, becomes the third defending C-USA Championship title-game winner to lose in the first round and the first to do so since East Carolina dropped a 69-55 decision to Rice on March 6, 2008, in Orlando, Fla. The Knights conclude the 2011-12 season with a 12-17 record.
Faulkner was one of three Southern Miss players to post double-digit scoring totals as Niesha Pierce had 18 and Sedreka Plummer came off the bench to score 14. Pierce led the Lady Eagles with eight rebounds and a trio of steals.
The two traded the first 20 points of the contest and Niesha Pierce broke a 10-10 tie with a 3-pointer with 15:01 to play in the first half to give Southern Miss they would not relinquish. The Lady Eagles' went ahead 29-14 with 8:56 to play in the opening stanza, but the Knights rallied to make it a nine-point contest at 35-27 when the first-half horn sounded.
UCF got it down to six at 39-33 on a pair of Andrea Hines free throws 2:29 into the second half. From there, Pierce drained 3-pointers in consecutive Lady Eagle possessions to make it 34-33 and the lead never dipped below double digits again. The Lady Eagle advantage increased as the clock ticked down and layup by the Knights' Racine Davis make it a 16-point contest with 3:00 left to play. That, however, was the final field goal of the day for UCF as Southern Miss outscored the Knights 6-1 the rest of the way to account for the final score.
Kayli Keough led UCF with 14 points while Erika Jones paced the squad with 13 rebounds. Aisha Patrick headlines the club with three assists and three steals in the season-ending loss.