The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Southern Miss Women’s Basketball rallies to beat UAB 79-74 in first round of NIT

Sean Smith

Despite the odds stacked against them and only having seven players available, Southern Miss women’s basketball rallied to secure their first win in the WNIT against UAB 79-74. Domonique Davis and Melyia Grayson led the comeback effort after multiple instances of a double-digit deficit.

“I think there’s a couple of words to remember this group by number one, they were relentless,” Southern Miss head coach Joy Lee-McNelis said. “I think the second thing, they played with a lot of courage.”

The Lady Eagles only had seven players dressed out. Davis, Grayson, Morgan Sieper, Nyla Jean, and Jacorriah Bracey were the starting five, and Mahoganie Williams and Mikaylah Manley were the only two players on the bench. Nolani Cornfield, Brikayla Gray, Emma Wallhoff, Elle Blatchford, and Asjha Leake were not in Reed Green Coliseum. This development is surprising as many are expected to enter the transfer portal.

“It’s the portal. It’s the transfer portal. You know, it is what it is,” McNelis confirmed when asked about the absence of all but seven players. “The transfer portal opened on Monday. So you had to know who’s with you and who’s not, because you gotta be on the phone Monday morning.”

Despite starters and key bench players, McNelis and the Lady Eagles found a way to win at home, and the crowd played no small part in that.

“I mean you could just feel it in your skin, the crowd. They were loud, they were standing, they were vocal… Our fans were huge,” McNelis said. “That’s why it’s gotta be 2K Saturday. We gotta get 2,000 people in here Saturday to be able to help us… We would not have won if we didn’t have the energy when we were exhausted-tired.”

The crowd, especially in the fourth quarter, played a serious advantage to the Lady Eagles. However, the product on the court, from only seven players, was the star of the show.

“On behalf of my staff, I can’t say enough of how proud I am of them.” McNelis said.

Davis topped out the scoring with 26, Grayson followed behind with 22, and Bracey with 13. Grayson scored 14 of her 22 in the fourth quarter alone, and 31 of the Lady Eagles 79 points came in the fourth quarter.

In the first quarter, the Lady Eagles fell behind quickly, with UAB starting the game on an 11-0 run before a foul let Davis cut into the lead with two free throws. The lack of personnel was felt early, and the Lady Blazers started the game shooting near perfect. Melia Grayson responded with two layups. The statistics on paper and lack of personnel favored the Lady Blazers greatly. However, after going early, the Lady Eagles kept pace and ate away at the lead throughout the first half of action.

The Lady Eagles headed into the locker room down by four, and the score was 32-36 at the half, starkly contrasting how things looked after the first few minutes.

Coming out of the second half, both teams missed their initial shots, and UAB missed three in a row all while keeping the ball in their half. After the Lady Eagles rebounded, Davis was fouled on an attempted layup, and made both her shots to bring Southern Miss within two. The red-hot Lady Blazers would quickly respond with a three-pointer, and the Lady Eagles displayed the sheer embodiment of Southern Miss grit with a layup from Davis and a steal and assist to Jean for a layup to bring the score within one.

The sparsely dotted crowd at Reed Green filled the empty space with a deceptively large amount of noise throughout the steal and score, and more steals and rebounds helped keep the Lady Eagles within reach of the lead. The Lady Blazers brought their lead back to six with free throws and an opportune three-pointer, but Southern Miss never lost their stride. The first full-length timeout of the second half saw Southern Miss trailing 42-46 with 4:10 left in the third quarter. UAB pulled away in the latter half of the third quarter, drawing fouls, getting steals, and – most importantly – making three’s, bringing their lead to a comfortable one, leading 58-48 at the end of three quarters.

“They jumped in the circle with two feet, and I think that says a lot to them as individuals. ‘I want to compete, I want to play for the name on the jersey on my front, not on my back, and we’re going to compete and we’re going to compete to win.’ And I think that’s exactly what they did,” McNelis said.

In the final quarter of action, Southern Miss struck. First; Grayson hit a layup and missed a free throw on an old-fashioned three-point play. Grayson then capitalized off Lady Eagle rebound with yet another layup, quickly bringing the score within two possessions. Bracey hit a mid-range jumper while being hit and made the free throw for the three-point play. With 8:17 left in the game, the Lady Eagles trailed 59-60, a far cry from their early game woes. A Grayson block and subsequent layup gave the Lady Eagles the first lead of the night as Reed Green Coliseum erupted.

UAB quickly responded with a three, but Grayson yet again made a layup to tie the game at 63. The Lady Blazers scored, but, like clockwork, Grayson appeared under the basket and dropped one through the net to keep it tied. Missed shots and gritty offensive rebounds let Grayson score and bring the score to 67-65 Southern Miss, and a steal and Davis layup gave the Lady Eagles their largest lead of the night with four points with four minutes left in the game. UAB called a timeout immediately after Davis scored, and Reed Green once again reverberated with cheering. Once the Lady Eagles got the lead, the Lady Blazers attempted long-range shots and held on tight, bringing the score to 73-65 in less than a minute. Bracey nailed a three with 2:40 left on the clock to give an 11-point lead to the Lady Eagles and they never looked back.

The Lady Blazers even made a three-pointer on a buzzer-beater, but it was too late, and Southern Miss won the comeback victory 79-74.

“Southern Miss, it means the world to me,” Davis said. “You know, I came here three years ago, you know not really knowing who I was as a basketball player anymore. But when I came here, the team we had then and the coaching staff and just the community here, they took me in and made me enjoy the game again, made me want to be hungry again, and Coach, she pushed me every day,”

The Lady Eagles return this Saturday at 5:00 pm hosting McNeese State in the second round of the WNIT.

Follow @jacksonekennedy on Twitter for up-to-date coverage.

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