Jan. 8, 2014
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech held Southern Mississippi's leading scorer and rebounder Tamara Jones scoreless Wednesday night in the Conference USA opener for both teams.
However, Golden Eagles senior point guard Jamierra Faulkner refused to let her team lose. Faulkner scored a game-high 21 points and controlled the tempo throughout the entire second half while leading Southern Miss to a 67-56 win over Louisiana Tech at the Thomas Assembly Center.
"When you are a winner and a leader, you know how to make things happen even through adverse moments," said Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. "She knows how to control the game. She is a facilitator. Her teammates trust her and trust in what she says. You can see it on the court. They want the ball in her hands because she makes things happen. She simply controlled the game."
With Jones saddled in foul trouble - like many of the players for both teams - Faulkner hit 8-of-14 field goals and dished out five assists and recorded three steals in the win.
Not only did Southern Miss (12-2, 1-0 C-USA) have to overcome Jones' empty night, but the Golden Eagles hit only 14-of-32 free throws in the game were outrebounded 51-39.
It didn't matter. Tech (5-9, 0-1 C-USA) couldn't take advantage of the opportunity as the Lady Techsters shot only 29 percent (17-of-59) for the game and committed a season-high 26 turnovers.
"Turnovers," Weatherspoon said. "Turnovers and not making shots have been our Achilles heel all season long. You have to make smart decisions. You can't just play hard and not be smart. You have to play smart. We didn't."
Faulkner scored eight early points in the first half before picking up her second foul with 11 minutes to play, joining Jones on the USM bench. However, Tech was unable to capitalize on the absence of the Golden Eagles top two scorers.
Freshman guard Brittney Dinkins stepped up for Southern Miss in the first half, scoring 11 of her 19 points in the opening 20 minutes. Dinkins, who entered the game having made only 8 of 32 three-pointers on the year, hit four three-pointers, including a buzzer beater that sent Southern Miss into the halftime locker room with a 27-21 advantage.
"We should have taken advantage in the first half," Weatherspoon said. "You have to take advantage of those things. You have to be aware of them and the opportunity in front of you. You have to understand who went to the bench. Give Southern Miss credit. There girls came off the bench and responded well. We didn't respond for some odd reason."
Southern Miss pushed its advantage out to eight points early in the second half as Tech lost its leading scorer and rebounder to foul trouble when Whitney Frazier picked up her fourth foul with 17:49 to play in the game. Brittney Jefferson and Lulu Perry responded as each scored four points in an 8-0 run that tied the game at 31-31 with 15:20 to play.
With the game tied at 33-33, Faulkner spearheaded a 9-0 run for Southern Miss scoring three points and recorded assists on the other three baskets as USM led 42-33 with 11:53 to play. Once again Tech rallied, using an 8-0 run. JaQuan Jackson scored five points in a span of four seconds to bring Tech to within 42-41.
Tech had an opportunity to take the lead but failed to capitalize on a 3-on-2 fast break and once again Faulkner made the Lady Techsters pay, scoring back-to-back buckets in transition to trigger a 11-0 run that saw Southern Miss lead 53-41 with 7:31 to play.
The Lady Techsters made one final run cutting the deficit down to 60-56 with 1:10 to play. However, USM finally found its range from the free throw line, hitting its final five free throws of the game to pull away for the victory.
Lulu Perry led Tech as the sophomore recorded her first career double double with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, the most by any Lady Techster in the last three years. Frazier added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Tech returns to action Saturday when it hosts Middle Tennessee, an 86-42 winner over North Texas in its C-USA opener.