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With just 7 players, Southern Miss women’s basketball advances to WNIT Super 16

Jacorriah Bracey during Southern Miss' win over Murray State on Saturday (Photo courtesy of USM Athletics)

Maybe it was the raucous crowd in Hattiesburg, maybe it was playing with only seven people, or maybe it was your record-breaking coach in and out of the game with physical fatigue, but whatever the adversity was, the Southern Miss women’s basketball team outlasted Murray State on Saturday 78-67 in overtime to earn a berth in the WNIT Super 16.

The Golden Eagles (20-13, 10-8) outscored the Racers (20-12, 9-7) in overtime by 11 to seal the win and advance in the postseason.

How it happened

With Southern Miss battling from behind early, Murray State jumped out to an eight-point lead in the first quarter and entered the second quarter up 17-13. A field goal from Golden Eagles guard Jacorriah Bracey at the 7:11 mark tied it at 20 and a Domonique Davis free throw on the next possession gave USM its first lead of the evening. The two teams traded leads another seven times with the Racers knocking down a buzzer-beater to take a 33-32 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

Neither team was able to build an advantage as the game stayed within four points for the next 20 minutes. In the final minute of play, the Racers and Eagles traded timeouts and fouls with Southern Miss executing a perfect final minute of play, forcing a backcourt violation and jump ball to stay alive.

Davis earned a trip to the line with 13.7 seconds left to play and drilled both attempts to tie it at 65. Murray State missed two free throws with 0.6 seconds.

Entering overtime, the Golden Eagles took a quick advantage. Bracey scored two baskets in succession to give Southern Miss a 69-65 advantage before a Davis dagger three made it 72-65. After that, the Eagles ran to the finish, continuing to score while holding Murray State scoreless except for one basket.

What the coach said

Overcoming adversity has been the key for this Southern Miss team, and assistant head coach Jack Trosper wasn’t backing down from this.

“Was proud of all seven players on our team and overcoming adversity, a credit to how hard they worked all year long,” Trosper said. “The crowd and players were incredible. They told me before the start of overtime, ‘Coach, we’re gonna win this game. They’ve had too many chances to put this away.’”

In response to only having seven players on the team as a mass exodus headed for the transfer portal last week, Davis was emphatic about overcoming adversity.

“I think it makes the story better,” expressed the star player. “We have seven people who are fully bought in that want to play hard for each other and our coaching staff.”

Building the legacy

Southern Miss head coach Joye Lee-McNelis is no spring chicken when it comes to overcoming adversity and had to show it again in the heat of the moment. Coaching in her 1000th career game, McNelis slowly came to the bench and was forced to leave during the third period because of needing an IV to allow her to be available during the fourth period and eventually overtime.

“It’s been a long season and she’s going through her stuff, was a little fatigued today,” stated Trosper on why McNelis wasn’t available during the third period.  “She was definitely coaching; I was just the one standing up and yelling.  She was leading all of the decisions.”

Lee-McNelis is now 558-442 overall and 329-286 at Southern Miss.

Numbers don’t lie

Southern Miss earned its 20th win of the season behind 33 points from Davis and 25 from Bracey. The duo combined for 58 of Southern Miss’ 78 points as Bracey played a complete 45-minute game and Davis played 44 minutes and 47 seconds, subbing out with 13 seconds left to a standing ovation from the 1,566 fans in Reed Green Coliseum.

Davis’ 33-point performance allows her to stand alone at the top of the single-season scoring record with 651 points this year.

Murray State was led by Katelyn Young with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

The Golden Eagles outscored Murray State 15-4 on fast break points and 18-7 on points off turnovers.

Next up

The Eagles will find out their date, time, location, and opponent for the next round after Monday’s game between Grambling State and Louisiana-Monroe.

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