March 7, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS - Four Lady Eagles posted double-figure scoring totals as third-seeded Southern Miss rallied to defeat No. 7 seed Marshall, 64-56, in the 2009 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship Semifinals Saturday evening at Fogelman Arena.
The Thundering Herd held an 11-point lead at 50-39 with 10:20 left in regulation, but USM responded to outscore Marshall 25-6 the rest of the way to claim victory. The Lady Eagle defense clamped down late, forcing 15 turnovers and limiting the Herd to just six shots - including just one make - over the final nine minutes of play.
With the win, Southern Miss improves to 20-11 on the year and advances to take on fifth-seeded UCF (16-16) in the C-USA Championship Game on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The C-USA Championship game will be televised live nationally on ESPN2. Marshall, meanwhile, concludes its 2008-09 campaign at 17-15.
Down by nearly a dozen with less than 10 minutes to play, Southern Miss started the comeback on a pair of free throws by Stephanie Helgeson and sandwiched a layup by Pauline Love around a pair of baskets by Candace Rucker to make it a 50-47 ballgame. Marshall's Tynikkie Crook pushed the lead back to five with 6:57 on the clock, but the Lady Eagles responded with a 5-0 run to tie the game at 52-all 2:26 later.
The two teams traded the next eight points, but with the score knotted at 56-56, Love hit a jumper in the lane with 1:22 left in regulation to give the Lady Eagles the lead for good. Rucker scored the final six points of the ballgame on a layup and four free throws to account for the final score.
Rucker led Southern Miss in scoring with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting and posted a game-best five steals. She was joined in the double-digit point column by Andrea Barber with 12 and the duo of Love and Kendra Reed with 10 apiece. Love led the Lady Eagles with nine rebounds while Barker paced the club with five assists.
Marshall's Crook tied for game-high scoring honors with 15 of her own, and finished with 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. Chantelle Handy posted 11 points for the Herd while Casey Baker led all players with six assists.