HATTIESBURG, Miss. Sparkle Taylor (16 points) and Jakeira Ford (career-high tying 13 points) both reached double figures in scoring but turnovers and a tough day on the boards added up to a 73-48 setback at Southern Miss Saturday afternoon.
The Miners (6-18, 3-9 C-USA) trailed by just two (31-29) with 2:03 to play in the first half before the Lady Eagles (16-9, 8-5 C-USA) scored eight straight to enter the locker room up by 10 (39-29). USM continued the surge in the second half, tallying 11 in a row. The 19-0 run wrapped around halftime put UTEP in a big hole from which they could never recover.
UTEP (19-52, 36.5) shot a comparable percentage to USM (26-66, 39.4) but aspirations of securing its fourth consecutive win in a visit to Reed Green Coliseum were dashed as result of turnovers and rebounding. Southern Miss, which leads C-USA and is 7th nationally for turnovers forced/game, harassed the Miners into making 26 giveaways (led to 23 points). USM also controlled the boards (48-31), aided by securing 25 offensive rebounds. The 25 offensive rebounds tie as the most by an opponent in the Keitha Adams era; UCF also did so on Feb. 19, 2009.
Brittany Dinkins (26 points), Jayla King (13 points, seven boards) and Lashyra Cotton (seven points, 12 rebounds) led the way for USM.
“It was an extremely tough game today,” Adams said. “That’s two games in a row that we got dominated on the boards and the opposing team just outplayed us and played much harder than we did. Lack of heart, lack of rebounding. Southern Miss has a good team. They really guard people. We got some young kids that got some experience today, a lot of freshmen on floor in the second half, so that’s a positive from a negative.
“I’m embarrassed by today’s performance,” Adams said. “We’ll get home and get it corrected. It’s been a tough season and we’ve got the wind knocked out of us. But now, who are we and what are we about?”
All 12 Miners logged at least nine minutes of action, with Roeshonda Patterson (17) and Jessica Barbosa (13) both setting career highs in playing time. Adams went to a youth-laden roster in the second half, with the Miners finishing the contest with five freshmen (four true, one redshirt) on the court.
Things looked promising early on, with Taylor asserting herself extremely well in the first quarter. The senior scored 10 points in the frame to help keep the Miners in striking distance (17-14) through 10 minutes of action.
USM managed to extend its advantage to eight (26-18) early in the second quarter but the Miners dug deep and held the home side scoreless for almost four minutes to climb back within two (28-26, 3:18 2Q). The deficit remained two (31-29) as the half wound down before USM initiated that aforementioned game-changing run.
UTEP will look to put this result in the rearview mirror when it returns home to play host to North Texas at 7:05 p.m. MSTThursday. There will be free admission to the game as part of the annual National Girls & Women In Sports Day Celebration. There will also be a postgame autograph session on the concourse level.