March 7, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Southern Miss women's team concluded the regular season on a positive note with a 75-66 win over East Carolina on Thursday night.
Southern Miss improved to 14-15 overall and 6-10 in Conference USA play while East Carolina fell to 21-8 and 11-5.
"I think this was a great way to finish the season," Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. "We play a spectacular first half and we defended very well and created opportunities for easy shots. I thought our overall sense of urgency was unbelievable. It probably was the best first half of basketball we've played this season."
As fitting, senior Tanecka Carey netted a game-high 23 points while playing all 40 minutes. Jamierra Faulkner tossed in 20 points and Niesha Pierce chipped in 10 points. Senior Ance Celmina grabbed a team-best eight rebounds.
"At the half we thought our team that East Carolina was going to make a run," McNelis said. "The biggest key for us was to remain poised and not panic. We have to remember to do the little things like switch on screens, defend the three-ball, box out and take smart shots.
"Even when they cut the lead to six, I thought we played with more poised and we were able to finish the game."
East Carolina opened the second half scoring the first four points before Carey hit a three to keep the Lady Eagles at a 17-point advantage. ECU answered with a three of its own before Carey connected on her second three of the half. From there, the Pirates scored seven unanswered points to cut the lead to 45-35. Wendy Miller hit a driving layup, but could not complete the three-point play before East Carolina added a basket and free throw to get the lead under double-digits. Niesha Pierce sparked a 9-2 run for the home team for the 56-41 lead.
East Carolina would not go quietly as the Pirated mounted a comeback in using a 12-3 run to get within six, 59-53, with 8:07 remaining. Over the next two minutes, the Lady Eagles were able to regroup and pushed the lead to 10 using an 8-3 run. In the final four minutes, East Carolina was able to cut the lead to eight but Southern Miss was able to hit a pair of baskets and convert just enough free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
After both teams struggled to score in the first two minutes of the game, East Carolina put the first two points on the scoreboard before Southern Miss scored the next eight points for the 8-2 lead. After an East Carolina basket, Southern Miss then reeled off 12 straight points over a span of 2:20 in pushing the lead to 20-4. East Carolina cut the lead to 10 with 8:42 remaining before the half, but the Black and Gold added eight straight for the 30-12 lead.
Over the final five minutes of the half, each team put up nine points each as Southern Miss took a 39-21 lead into the half.
Southern Miss shot a blistering 61 percent in the first half and cooled to 56 percent in the second to finish the game shooting 58.8 percent from the field. East Carolina held a substantial rebounding edge, 50-29 while forcing the Lady Eagles into 24 turnovers. The Pirates came up with 19 second chance points to the Lady Eagles' four.
Whitny Edwards led East Carolina with 17 points while Kristine Mial added 11. Britny Edwards pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds.
Southern Miss will now prepare for the upcoming Conference USA Championship scheduled for March 13-16 in Tulsa, Okla. The bracket and seedings will be announced on Saturday.
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