“It was a tough basketball game like we thought it would be,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “Southern Miss has some guards who are very talented. I am proud of our kids for coming out in the second half and building a 20-point lead. We played a basketball team that will win a lot of games this season.
“It wasn’t our best night, but we really turned it on there in the second half when we needed to.”
Ketara Chapel and Morgan William each claimed season highs with 17 points apiece to pace the Bulldogs. Dominique Dillingham added a season-best 15 points, while Chinwe Okorie and Victoria Vivians added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Okorie and William barely missed double-double as they recorded nine rebounds and nine assists, respectively.
MSU used a 14-2 run in the first quarter to build a 16-4 advantage. The Bulldogs started strong on both ends of the floor, with a 3-pointer by Dillingham and a 3-point play by Chapel highlighting the run.
The Bulldogs held the lead the entire second quarter but did have some tight moments. After a 3-pointer by Vivians ran the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-19, the Lady Eagles (6-3) scored the game’s next six points.
A 3-point play by Jerontay Clemons had the Lady Eagles back within 29-28. From there, MSU finished strong with a 10-2 run to help take a 43-34 halftime lead.
“We had an off night shooting,” Schaefer said. “Fortunately (Dillingham) stepped up and made some big shots early. We didn’t get the production we needed to get from the bench but our defensive effort was good. (USM) likes to play fast, like we do, and we did a good job of containing them.”
A pair of 3-point baskets by William and Dillingham quickly pushed the Maroon and White advantage to 49-36 in the early stages of the third quarter. An offensive rebound and jumper by William ran the lead back out to 59-42 with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
Southern Miss closed within 10 twice in the closing minute of the third quarter before falling down 65-51 at the end of the period.
A layup by Vivians and later two free throws by Teaira McCowan ran the lead to 20 points on two different occasions.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 28 of 60 shots from the field (46.7 percent), 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 16 of 19 shots from the foul line (84.2 percent). The Lady Eagles hit 21 of 48 shots from the field (43.8 percent), 3 of 8 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 20 of 24 shots from the foul line (83.3 percent).
MSU held a 36-24 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 19 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Lady Eagles had nine assists and 17 turnovers.
Southern Miss received a game-high 24 points from Clemons. Brittanny Dinkins added 18 points and Jayla King added 10 points for the Lady Eagles.
MSU closes the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule by playing three games in the Puerto Rico Classic. The opening game of the tournament tips at 10 a.m. CT Saturday against Florida Gulf Coast, the reigning Atlantic Sun champion and an NCAA Tournament team from a year ago.