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Lady Eagles rely on defense in win over Samford

Joe Harper/
Southern Miss Lady Eagles guard Domonique Davis (2) with a shot over Samford Bulldogs center Emily Bowman (44).

After a 75-53 win to kick off the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic, Southern Miss delivered its most outstanding defensive display in school history during a triumphant 51-33 victory over Samford. The Lady Eagles now stand at an impressive 6-0 for the season, marking their best start since 2007. Additionally, they dominated the tournament, achieving a clean sweep.
Samford cruised through the first quarter, hitting back-to-back threes to take its first lead of the day at 6-2. USM’s Melyia Grayson would then score a quick layup to cut the lead down to 6-4. But Samford responded quickly, going on a 6-0 run and forcing USM’s 20th-year head coach Joye Lee-McNelis to use her first timeout.
In the second quarter, Samford started off strong, taking an early 20-10 lead. But Grayson and Dom Davis led a Golden Eagle rally that cut Samford’s lead 22-20 at the half. And the Bulldogs would hold on to the lead until the 6:38 mark in the third quarter at which Southern Miss took the last lead of the day and stormed off to an 18-point win.
“What a defensive game,” said USM head coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “Really, on both sides of the ball I thought we did a great job. Defensively, I thought Samford did a great job defensively. Eventually we were able to get some things going offensively; I don’t know how many layups we missed, but I know it was a bunch of shots at the rim and we could have busted this thing open. We could have laid down and died at the end of the second quarter, but we didn’t. We fought and we kept it close, and I just felt like if we could ever get over the hump, we’d win.”
In the second half, USM demonstrated efficiency by making 13 of 28 shots (46.4 percent) and capitalizing on 12 turnovers from Samford. Meanwhile, they stifled the Bulldogs, limiting them to a 18.2 percent shooting accuracy (4-of-22) from the field and a 0-of-10 performance from beyond the three-point line.
USM’s Grayson emerged as both the leading scorer and rebounder, accumulating 15 points and 14 rebounds. This marked her 11th career double-double. Grayson, along with Noelani Cornfield and Brikayla Gray, earned a spot on the All-Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic Team. Additionally, Domonique Davis received recognition as the tournament MVP.
The Bulldogs scored a total of 33 points, with 16 in the first quarter and 22 in the first half. Southern Miss effectively limited Samford to just 11 points in the remaining 20 minutes, marking the lowest point total in Lady Eagle history as a Division I program. This surpasses the previous record of 34 points allowed.
After a demanding stretch of four games in eight days, Southern Miss will enjoy a week off. The Lady Eagles’ next matchup is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 2, against No. 24/23 Ole Miss at Reed Green Coliseum. Tipoff against the Rebels is set for 2 p.m., and the game will serve as Southern Miss’ annual Lung Cancer Awareness Game.

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