Lady Eagles use strong second half to push past Arkansas State 79-72, advance to semifinals.

PENSACOLA, Fla – The No. 3 seed Lady Eagles pushed past Arkansas State in the Sun Belt tournament quarterfinal 79-72 to reach the semifinals. The Lady Eagles started slowly in all facets of the game, but they efficiently handled the Red Wolves once they had their footing.

“Our team never quit. They were relentless, and they held together to be able to get the victory.” Southern Miss head coach Joy Lee-McNelis said.

Southern Miss started the game with a boost of energy from guard Dominique Davis. Davis put the team on her back to open the game getting six of the first 10 points for the Lady Eagles.

“I knew that I had to get going early. I couldn’t have a slow start that I’ve seen in the past. I knew if I got going, my teammates would start to feel comfortable. Then once we get comfortable, we’re a scary team to deal with.” Davis said.

Davis was a scary player tonight as she finished with 22 points on the night and eight assists. Davis was doing almost everything for Southern Miss, and the Lady Eagles ran through her for most of the first half.

“Dom came out and was really the force, and the charge to start making that happen as she was attacking the basket,” McNelis said about Davis’s play in the third.

Southern Mis also got a big lift from Lauren Gross in the third quarter. She got hot from deep, as she hit four three-pointers.

“I think that [Lauren’s growth] is definitely is an added dimension to us. It allows them to have to guard out not be able to pack it in quite as much, on our inside game. Maleyia in particular, to be able to stretch the floor. I think that they’ve stepped up and shot it with competence. And I’ll be honest with you, I think over the last month, the two of them have spent a lot of extra time in the gym.” McNelis said.

The Lady Eagles needed a boost because Arkansas State knocked down ten three-pointers, nearly half their points. McNelis talked about how the Red Wolves were at an advantage because they had already played two games on the court, which was Southern Miss’s first game.

“I could not believe how well we shot the basketball today. And I was really concerned because the rims are really tight. They’re not loose. They’re not a shooters rim to be very honest with you. And watching Arkansas State play yesterday, I was like, oh my goodness, because they can really shoot the ball. And I mean they were draining everything. And my concern was that they have had two days to shoot in here. And we’re just going to get 20 minutes before we play. And so, I was pleased today.” McNelis said.

Southern Miss got a big boost today on the boards as well, 40-37 in favor of Southern Miss. That number was almost doubled in favor of Southern Miss at halftime, thanks to Melyia Grayson. Grayson notched together a triple-double, with 11 points and 14 rebounds, and was another scary player.

“I just did my job with rebounding and I just kept rebounding. I’m trying to see what that could make happen for me. So I just kept rebounding and putting it back up.” Grayson said.

The Lady Eagles advance to the quarterfinals, where they will face the winner of Texas State and Appalachian State at 2:00 PM on Sunday.