EL PASO, Texas - Senior point guard Jameirra Faulkner had 20 points and 10 assists to lead Southern Miss, but it wasn't enough as they fell to Middle Tennessee, 84-55, in C-USA title game at the Don Haskins Center Saturday evening.
Southern Miss (26-6) had its 13-game winning streak snapped in the process. Faulkner flirted with a triple-double (20 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds) while Tamara Jones (15 points) and Jerontay Clemons (12 points) also reached double figures.
Rowe was named the 2014 Tournament MVP for helping the Blue Raiders (29-4) receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Eagles (26-6), who had their 13-game winning streak snapped, will learn their postseason fate on "Selection Monday." USM should be in the discussion for an at-large bid to the "Big Dance," but at the very worst it is assured of a WNIT bid.
While both teams shooting it well (USM 23-55, 41.8% and MT 29-58, 50.8%), the Blue Raiders separated themselves through their pressure defense and by crashing the offensives boards. Middle Tennessee enjoyed a 25-10 advantage in points off turnovers while using 17 offensive boards to out-score the Lady Eagles, 19-9, in second-chance points.
Southern Miss scored the first five points of the contest to grab the early lead before Middle Tennessee struck back in the form of a 15-7 surge. Rowe capped it with a triple to give the Blue Raiders a 15-12 advantage with 10:32 to play in the period.
The Lady Eagles regrouped and scored eight of the game's next 10 points to stake a 20-17 advantage with 5:35 to play in the period. Middle Tennessee didn't flinch, though, relying on its vaunted defense to take control of the game heading into halftime.
USM scored just two points- a jumper by Faulkner-while being forced into five turnovers in the sequence, helping fuel a 13-2 run by the top seed to secure a 30-22 advantage at the break. It was back-and-forth action over the first several minutes of the second stanza, and the difference was just 10 (41-31) with 15:30 to play in the game after a Tamara Jones triple. Similar to the first half, though, Middle Tennessee found another gear, with a 16-2 surge that spanned seven minutes putting the Lady Eagles in a hole too deep even for their high-octane offense to overcome.
The margin swelled to as many as 31 at one point, in part due to USM fouling down the stretch.
2014 Conference USA Player of the Year Ebony Rowe poured in 23 points while C-USA Freshman of the year Olivia Jones buoyed Rowe with a double-double (18 points, 14 rebounds) while Keke Stewart (15 points) and China Dow (11 points) also got in the act. Rowe also hurt USM with her passing, threading the needle on double teams to post five assists.
2014 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship All-Tournament Team
Jerica Coley - FIU
Olivia Jones - Middle Tennessee
Jamierra Faulkner - Southern Miss
Ebony Rowe - Middle Tennessee
Kayla Thornton - UTEP
Ebony Rowe - Middle Tennessee
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