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.