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USM upsets No. 19 Ole Miss



USM basketball player
Photo from USM Athletics

Story from USM Athletics:
Southern Miss and head coach Joye Lee-McNelis got a monkey off their backs today with a 61-59 win over No. 19/20 Ole Miss at Reed Green Coliseum. The Lady Eagles knocked off the ranked Rebels for the program’s first win over an AP Top 25 team since 2000 thanks to Domonique Davis’ 25-point performance.

“Wow, what a basketball game,” said 20th-year head coach Joye Lee-McNelis. “Our players just played with a lot of fight and a lot of grit. Domonique Davis, for the entire time that she was in the game, she played with a real passion. There was one lapse when we started that third quarter out of the half. I thought we began to lay down there a little bit and that frustration set it. They go up 11 but we were subbing trying to get a fire, trying to get a spark, trying to get something going. Brikayla Gray makes a strong move and gets a bucket, and we were able to get some things going. When you look at the big picture, Dom Davis was real special tonight fighting through her cramps and those things. A lot of different players contributed at different key times in the game.”

Ole Miss (6-3, 0-0 SEC), ranked 19th in the AP Poll and 20th in the WBCA Coaches Poll, is the first ranked team to travel to Reed Green Coliseum since 2019. The Rebels took an early lead and help on until a Domonique Davis (DeRidder, La.) jumper at the 7:27 mark of the second quarter gave Southern Miss (7-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) its first—and very brief—lead. Ole Miss scored quickly on the next possession with a three-pointer to retake the lead.

Noelani Cornfield (Gowanda, N.Y.) tied things up again at 25-all and Morgan Sieper (Tampa, Fla.) retook the lead with six minutes left to play in the first half. The Lady Eagles held on to the advantage until 2:39 in the second quarter. Ole Miss ended the first half on an 8-0 run and held a 36-32 advantage at the break. Southern Miss turned the ball over 10 times in the first half to Ole Miss’ five, largely accounting for the trailing margin. Davis already had 15 points on the stat sheet at the half.

The Rebels came out of the locker room with a new passion and looked to be slowly running away with the game, taking their largest lead of the game with 4:34 left to play in the third quarter. In a quick timeout huddle, McNelis challenged the Lady Eagles to find a spark and Sieper answered the call immediately.

“At halftime, we talked about that we have to have a good third quarter,” said Sieper. “That huddle after we were down 10-or-11, we decided that we were going to win that game. As a staff and as a team, we were going to put everything on the line. I don’t know if it was a media timeout or what, but we came together and all kind of felt a sense that we were going to win this game by any means necessary.”

At the 3:57 mark in the third quarter, Sieper drilled her fourth triple of the day to cut the Rebels’ lead to eight. That seemed to be just the spark Southern Miss needed as the team stormed back to within two in the next five minutes of play. The Tampa, Fla., native and true freshman finished the day with 12 points—all from beyond the arc—on 31:55 of game time. Melyia Grayson(Hattiesburg, Miss.) found the basket with 6:33 left to play and tied the game, 52-52.

Davis cemented her name in Lady Eagle history with a statement shot from 20 feet out to flip the lead for the final time on the day. Southern Miss held on to the lead for the next six minutes of play, taking its biggest lead of four points twice, last at the 2:14 mark thanks to a pair of Davis free throws.

If she had not taken over already, Davis iced the game with 15 seconds on the clock, giving her all for the final time in the game. Her 24th and 25th points of the day came with a driving layup that would be her final seconds on the court as her nagging cramps forced her to watch the final 15 seconds from the bench.

“Those are moments I’ve been living for my whole life,” said Davis. “I was one of those kids that when we went outside, I wanted to count down from 5, 4, you know. Those are moments you live for. The second half was kind of tough for me, I was dealing with some cramping. Regardless, I wanted to get that win so bad. I wanted to be out there so bad. When that time came, I felt like at that point in the game I was able to get to the rim when I wanted to, that’s where I was going. I didn’t want to settle for a jumper. I wanted it bad. I wanted it more than they wanted to get a stop.”

Her 25-point performance is the 23rd time Davis has crossed the 20-point margin in her Lady Eagle career. The day also gives her 1,096 points at Southern Miss—enough for 21st all-time in the Black & Gold.

Southern Miss is 7-0 for the first time since 2003 and now holds an eight-game streak at Reed Green Coliseum. The win is Southern Miss’ first over a ranked opponent since Feb. 27, 2000, over Tulane and is McNelis’ first since Jan. 14, 2000. The Lady Eagles are now 18-58 all-time against ranked teams and 1-15 under McNelis.

Southern Miss will take full advantage of an extended break before traveling up to Memphis, Tenn., to take on the Tigers of Memphis. The game will be the first time in over 10 years the old Metro Conference and Conference USA foes meet on the hardwood.

Game time at the historic Elma Roane Fieldhouse is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023.

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