Techsters fall in C-USA opener to Southern Miss, 66-60

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Shonte Hailes three-pointer as the shot clock expired with 14 seconds to play sealed the fate as Southern Miss defeated Louisiana Tech 66-60 in the Conference USA opener for both teams at Reed Green Coliseum Saturday afternoon.

“I didn’t think we played very well at all today,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “We had a chance. We got it to one possession late in the game. I thought we executed some things late that we needed to, and we were able to score out of it. It was a tough day offensively.

“Credit Southern Miss with their energy and their effort. I just thought we missed way too many close shots, just point blank shots. You can’t count on a foul being called. You are on the road and you have to go up off of two and play with some poise and strength about you. I thought we had a number of great looks and we only went 5 for 20 from the three-point line.”

Tech (8-4, 0-1 C-USA) rallied from a 12-point deficit (62-50) with less than two minutes to play to give itself a chance at the end. Amber Hawkison hit a jumper in the lane and then Amber Dixon scored six straight points on a three-pointer followed by a conventional three-point play that closed the deficit to 62-58.

After USM hit 1 of 2 free throws, Tech executed a play coming out of a timeout as MeMe Amand scored a layup off a pass from Raizel Guinto that closed the gap to 63-60 with 49 seconds to play in the game. The Lady Techsters then played defense and with the shot clock running down, Hailes found herself open and buried the three-pointer.

“We cut it to one possession there at the end,” said Stoehr. “Our number one key was contain Hailes and don’t let her get an easy look. I thought we defended for 26 seconds and then fell asleep and let their best player beat us. She might not make a three during the entire course of the game, but I guarantee you that in a moment like that that senior isn’t going to miss. When she touched it I knew it was going in.”

It was an afternoon that saw Tech struggled offensively. The Lady Techsters shot just 34 percent from the field (21-62), including just 5-of-20 from the three-point line.

Tech overcame those struggles to keep the game close, trailing only 25-24 at the break. The Lady Techsters took a 27-25 lead early in the third quarter on a three-pointer by Guinto but then turnovers and missed defensive assignments in the stanza saw Tech fall behind by double figures as the Golden Eagles (9-3, 1-0) used a 20-7 run to take a 45-34 lead through three periods.

“I did think we took care of the basketball until the third quarter,” said Stoehr. “I thought the third quarter we were very poor on both ends of the floor. The turnovers led to transition buckets for them, and I just didn’t think we handled it well. We have to better. We have to learn and to continue to grow. It is one game. There are a lot of teams that lost their first game. I told them in the locker room that we can’t put our heads down. We have to continue to work and get better. We aren’t playing very well offensively and we were still in a ball game on the road against a very good team, a veteran team.”

Guinto led Tech with 15 points, five assist, three steals and two blocks in 37 minutes while Dixon added 13 points and Anna Larr Roberson and Amand each chipped in with 10 points. Roberson pulled down eight rebounds for the Lady Techsters.

Tech returns to action Thursday when it hosts UTSA at 6:30 p.m. at the Thomas Assembly Center.

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