Lady Bulldogs Lose WNIT Battle at USM

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Pauline Love's 3-point basket with 2.3 seconds left lifted Southern Mississippi past Mississippi State 62-61 in second-round play of the Women's National Invitational Tournament Monday night.

With the victory, the Lady Eagles improved to 21-13 and will advance to meet Michigan in a third-round WNIT game Thursday night in Ann Arbor, Mich. For the Lady Bulldogs, a second straight season ends with a road loss in the WNIT. MSU wraps up the campaign with a 16-15 mark.

The victory allowed the Lady Eagles to make amends for a 77-56 M-State victory back in November in Starkville. The Lady Bulldogs appeared to be on the verge of another victory in the series, actually opening up a 55-40 lead with 10:07 left in regulation time.

MSU still held a relatively comfortable lead, holding a 58-50 advantage with 5:45 left.

Southern Miss then turned up the defensive pressure, reeling off a 9-1 run and helping fire up the Reed Green Coliseum crowd of 1,304. The Lady Bulldogs went 5:32 without a field goal.

With 13 seconds left in regulation, Miayorka Johnson hit a spinning layup as the shot clock expired to give the Lady Bulldogs a 61-59 advantage.

Southern Miss promptly answered on the other end, with Love draining a heavily-contested shot from about 20 feet out for the game-winning points.

For MSU, Alexis Rack's desperation shot from midcourt fell short as time expired.

In the opening half of the contest, the Lady Bulldogs appeared sluggish as they played their first game in 18 days, while USM benefited from a 67-57 opening-round win over Arkansas-Little Rock this past Thursday night.

In that opening half, the lead changed hands a couple of times and the teams were tied three times, including at 13-13.

Back-to-back baskets by Miayorka Johnson and Mary Kathryn Govero gave the Lady Bulldogs a 17-13 advantage. MSU held onto that lead and also increased it – taking a 32-26 advantage at halftime.

In the opening stages of the second half, the Lady Bulldogs turned up the defensive pressure to expand the lead. MSU opened the half on a 12-6 run to open up a 44-32 advantage with 14:56 left.

The teams had battled to a 22-22 deadlock in rebounding in the opening half. MSU then claimed the first nine rebounds of the second half, helping to open up the double-figure lead.

MSU expanded its rebounding advantage and continued some strong offensive play to build the 15-point lead. However, the Lady Eagles caught fire late and beat MSU for a second straight time in Hattiesburg.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs shot 35.5 percent from the field (22 of 62), 21.1 percent from 3-point land (4 of 19) and 61.9 percent from the line (13 of 21). The Lady Eagles shot 41.1 percent from the field (23 of 56), 27.8 percent from 3-point land (5 of 18) and 61.1 percent from the line (11 of 18).

MSU completed the contest with a 43-40 rebounding advantage and also made a season-low nine turnovers.

Marneshia Richard led MSU offensively with 12 points, while Imesia Jackson closed her MSU career with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Donnish Tate also had 8 rebounds to pace the Lady Bulldogs. Johnson finished with 9 points and 6 rebounds in her final game with MSU, as well.

Love was one of four Southern Miss players in double figures with 18 points. Also for USM, Kendra Reed had 15 points, Stephanie Helgeson had 13 points and Liz Bland had 10 points.

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