Southern Miss Advances to Championship after 59-54 Win Over Middle Tennessee
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Southern Miss Women's Basketball team (23-9, 15-5) defeated Middle Tennessee (21-10, 16-4) 59-54 in the semifinal of the Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship, presented by MetroPCS.
"What a game," Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. "We have continued to wait until fourth quarters to really excel in every aspect of the game. There's no doubt in that fourth quarter, we played with unbelievable belief that we could win. We were down going into the fourth quarter. That says a lot about the young ladies believing in the process; believing in what the journey is all about. As a coaching staff, we're extremely proud of them. Middle Tennessee and Coach Rick Insell and his staff, they're very good. For us to be able to get a win against them in this environment -- it's their expectation to win a championship. It's the expectation when they come on that campus. For us to get a win against a team like that, it's unbelievable."
Entering the fourth quarter, Southern Miss trailed 43-37 and Brittanny Dinkins had only scored two points. When the final buzzer had sound, Southern Miss had closed the game on an 8-0 run that spanned the last 1:56 of the game, the Lady Eagles hit their last seven shots from the floor and had held the Lady Raiders to two made baskets on their final 12 field goals. Dinkins scored nine of Southern Miss' last 16 points and seven of those nine points all came within the final two minutes. The Miami native would also move to No. 10 on the all-time Lady Eagle scoring list, amassing 1,435 career points.
"As leader of this team, I've done it two games in a row," Dinkins said. "That's what's expected. When things get tough, you look to the leader to make things happen. I don't plan on stopping. It's great for things to continue to fall in our favor, not just for me to shoot, but to get my teammates involved as well."
Dinkins and Shonte Hailes both dished a team-high four assists and, for the fourth time this season, every Lady Eagle that checked into the game scored a basket.
Tallying 10 points a team-high seven rebounds, Jayla King was the Lady Eagle's second leading scorer.
"All year, we've been keeping poised as we go down the stretch," King said. "We knew we weren't going home today. Even though the ball was going in and out we were encouraging each other."
Southern Miss will now face WKU in the C-USA Championship game for the second time in the past three seasons. The Lady Topper's beat the Lady Eagles 79-53 in the lone season match up.
Starting at 4:00 p.m. CT, Lady Eagle fans can also hear Josh West on the radio broadcast for the game on WFOR 1400 AM. The game will also be broadcast on CBS Sports at 4:30 p.m. CT.