Little Rock downs USM in WNIT

HATTIESBURG – Little Rock entered Wednesday’s WNIT game with Southern Miss as the 12th-best scoring defense in the county, only allowing opponents 55 points per game.

Also, the Trojans were 15-0 while holding teams to less than 40 percent from the field. Well, the Eagles scored more than 55 points, but only shot 39.1 percent and Little Rock came-from-behind to beat Southern Miss 72-62 to advance in the tournament.

Southern Miss’ season ends with a 23-11 overall record.

“We did not execute in the final three minutes in the game, and they did and that’s when they busted it open,” Southern Miss coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “We turned the ball over, we missed shots at the rim, we let them get by us off the bounce. It’s an exact mirror imagine of what we did in the conference championship in the final three minutes of that game.”

The two teams match each other point for point for most of the game, and the Eagles even grabbed a 52-48 lead after the third quarter. However, they could only score 10 points in the final frame, as the Trojans made a furious run to score 24 points to pull away.

There two straight jump shots by Little Rock’s Kaitlyn Pratt and Anna Hurlburt that tied the game at 52, then after Brittanny Dinkins added a layup to give USM the lead again, Little Rock got six straight points to grab control of the game.

Late in the fourth, the Eagles went on a three-minute dry spell while Little Rock scored 10 straight to take a 70-57 lead, putting a serious damper on a possible comeback. The Eagles were held to just 4-of-16 (25 percent) shooting in the final quarter, and that proved to be the difference in the ballgame.

“I thought we played tired all night, honestly,” Lee-McNelis said. “We didn’t press, we couldn’t press, they beat us off the press, we didn’t play with urgency and I thought we played very sluggish.”

The Eagles shot 43 percent (21-of-48) through the first three quarters, though.

Southern Miss took its first lead of the game midway through the first quarter when Megan Brown nailed a jumper to give her a team a 10-9 lead. That came during an 8-0 run to help the Eagles to a 14-9 advantage.

Little Rock responded by closing out the first quarter on an 8-0 run of its own to grab the lead back at 17-14.

The two teams trade points throughout the beginning of the second quarter, as each team held leads of at least three points. Dinkins started to heat up midway through, scoring five straight points during a 7-0 run by Southern Miss.

Again, the Trojans responded with a quick 6-0 run to regain the lead, but Dinkins nailed a 3-pointer with a few seconds remaining in the half to retake the momentum and enter the break up 35-33.

Dinkins was 3-for-5 from behind the 3-point line to lead Southern Miss with 15 points after the first 20 minutes. She finished the game with a game-high 19 points, Keri Jewett-Giles added 16 points and Brown finished with 13 points.

Dinkins finished her career at Southern Miss second all-time in total points with 627, 19 points behind Portland McCaskill (1984-85), who is the current Sumrall Lady Bobcats head coach.

“The season meant a lot,” Dinkins said. “Not even just based on the career that I had, but the responsibilities that I had to take on as a leader.”