Southern Miss

Little Rock eliminates Southern Miss women from WNIT

Southern Mississippi's Keri Jewett-Giles, left, looks to pass around Western Kentucky's Kendall Noble in the Conference USA women’s tournament finals last weekend.
Southern Mississippi's Keri Jewett-Giles, left, looks to pass around Western Kentucky's Kendall Noble in the Conference USA women’s tournament finals last weekend. Associated Press

The Southern Miss Lady Eagles' charmed season came to an end on Wednesday night, falling to Little Rock 72-62 in the first round of the WNIT inside Reed Green Coliseum.

The Lady Eagles (23-11), picked to finish eighth in Conference USA, rolled all the way to third-place and made it to the championship game on Saturday. Head coach Joye Lee-McNelis earned C-USA Coach of the Year accolades for her efforts and Brittanny Dinkins was named the Defensive Player of the Year.

“It was basket for basket the whole time, but I thought our mental errors gave them opportunities,” McNelis said. “Coming out of halftime, I thought we played pretty well, but in the final three minutes of the game we did not execute. It was a mirror imagine of what happened to us against Western Kentucky.”

The Trojans (25-8) were the regular-season Sun Belt champ with a 17-1 record before an upset loss in their quarterfinals.

Southern Miss got its crowd to a fever pitch on an 8-0 run in the first half, putting it ahead 14-9. A pair of Jayla King free-throws at the 3:36 mark capped off the onslaught.

King had makes from the charity stripe that served as the first points of the second quarter, and the Lady Eagles got back within 17-16. The two teams traded barbs and did not have a separation of more than three points until Keri Jewett-Giles knocked down a jumper for a 30-25 advantage with 4:06 remaining in the second quarter.

Dinkins drained a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the first half to give her team a 35-33 lead. Those were the first points for the Golden Eagles since a Megan Brown jumper with 2:44 on the clock before the Lady Trojans had a 6-0 spurt.

The Lady Eagles kept their lead for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter as well until Kira Shepard's jumper put Little Rock up 56-54. Shepard's three-pointer with 3:10 remaining gave her team the 63-57 bump, and the Trojans were able to secure it from there.

Dinkins eclipsed Janice Felder’s 614 (1991-92) single-season points, accumulating 627 over the year, and moved to second all-time. The senior not only appeared in the most games by any Lady Eagle (134), but she’ll go down as the No. 10 all-time leading scorer in Southern Miss Women’s Basketball history at 1,479 total career points.

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