USM Hits Buzzer-Beater, Beats Marshall 60-58

DALLAS - Southern Miss' Kristin Chaney hit a driving lay-up as time expired to give the No. 4 Golden Eagles a 60-58 victory over No. 5 Marshall in Friday's second quarterfinal at the 2006 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship presented by Aeropostale at Moody Coliseum.

Chaney scored the final four points for the Golden Eagles, who saw an 11-point second-half lead disappear in the waning moments. The junior guard, along with the freshman duo of Ashley Boehnel and Kendra Reed, combined for 41 points in the contest. Boehnel led the Golden Eagles with 18 points and Reed, the C-USA Co-Freshman of the Year, had 12 of her 16 points after the break. Marshall's Sikeetha Shephard-Hall led all scorers with 20 points, including 12 after the break.

"We played a great ballgame today," said USM head coach Joye Lee-McNelis. "I thought that both teams really played hard, made runs and battled the entire way. You would like to say that both teams could win, but that just can't happen. The big difference tonight was that we hit the shots early."

The Herd got within three at 38-35 five minutes into the second half, but Southern Miss responded with a 10-2 run that built its advantage back to double digits. The Golden Eagles' lead was a comfortable one at 11 points until a field goal drought over the final 7:03 of the game allowed Marshall to pull even at 56-56 with a 13-2 run.

Reshundra Smiley tied the game with 41 seconds left nailing a pair of free throws after Southern Miss' Amber Eugene had missed four consecutive in the final three minutes. Chaney responded for the Golden Eagles burying a pair of her own free throws to build the lead back to two for USM. Marshall was resilient once again, tying the score at 58-58 with 15 seconds to play after Mary Pat Statler hit an improbable bank shot from the left wing.

Chaney's driving lay-up off the glass ended the drought advancing Southern Miss to its first C-USA Championship semifinal since 2000. Top-seed Tulsa is next for the Golden Eagles as Saturday's first semifinal is set for 3 p.m. CT and will be aired live on CSTV.

Marshall went the opening 4:44 of the game without a field goal as Southern Miss was able to take advantage of the shooting drought to build a quick 8-2 lead before Shepard-Hall made a 12-footer from the right wing.

The Golden Eagles (14-14, 10-6 C-USA) built a 31-19 lead on a three pointer Ashley Harrell with 2:18 to play in the opening half, but Marshall closed out the opening 20 minutes with a 6-2 run to go into halftime trailing 33-25. Boehnel had 11 points, while Hall led Marshall with eight first-half points.

"I'm very proud of this team," Marshall coach Royce Chadwick said. "Every basket we got we had to fight hard for."

Shepard-Hall, whose career came to a close on Friday, echoed Chadwick's sentiments.

"We fought as hard as we could," she said. "Things weren't going our way, but we wouldn't put our heads down and we never gave up."

Marshall never led in the game and at one point trailed by as many as 14 points. The Herd held a 41-25 advantage in rebounds as Michele Hagan led that effort with eight boards. Hagan also had 10 points, with two blocks, to join Shepard-Hall and Statler, who also had 10 points, in double figures.

The Herd failed to sink a 3-pointer for the first time this season (0-for-4).

The loss by Marshall ends the careers of Shepard-Hall, Statler, Smiley, Hagan and Crystal Champion. Shepard-Hall finished a brilliant four-year run at MU with 1,609 points, third most in Herd annals.

"This senior class took us from nothing to something," Chadwick said. The Herd (15-14, 9-7 C-USA) posted winning seasons in three straight years, the first time that has happened in nine years.

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