HATTIESBURG, Miss – Freshman Caitlin Jenkins scored a career-high 29 points to go with 15 rebounds in leading the Lady Eagles past Louisiana Tech, 69-59, in the conference opener Saturday evening.
The Lady Eagles improved to 8-4 overall and 1-0 in league play while Louisiana Tech dropped to 5-7, 0-1.
“What a ball game,” Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis said. “When you look at it, both teams played with a lot of fight. It was very aggressive game, a very physical game, so you have to applaud both teams for wanting to get off to a 1-0 start.
“What a game by Caitlin Jenkins,” said McNelis. “She really stepped up, made some big buckets and had some big rebounds. Jayla King came out in the first quarter and played well for us. She kind of went to sleep on us, but came back in the second half and got a double-double. Tajanay Veiga. We’ve been seeing it happening for her and she relaxed today and gave us 19 points.”
Junior Tajanay Veiga scored a season-high 19 points and Jayla King added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The teams opened the game going scoreless for the first 1:30 before the Lady Eagles got on track, scoring 10 of the first 12 points. LA Tech cut the lead to 16-10 using an 8-2 run. From there, both teams went cold from the field until Brittanny Dinkins ended a 3:25 drought with a jumper in the paint. Southern Miss led 21-13 at the end of the first quartet.
The teams traded baskets to start the quarter before Jenkins completed a three-point play to push the Lady Eagles’ lead to 26-15. Southern Miss went over five minutes without scoring as the Lady Techsters chipped away at the Lady Eagle lead. Jenkins finally snapped the streak with a bucket from underneath. However, the Lady Techsters ended the quarter with a 5-0 run in cutting the lead to 30-24 at the half.
Out of the intermission, the Lady Techsters quickly closed the gap to 32-28, outscoring the home team 6-2 in the first three minutes of the quarter. Southern Miss responded with an 8-3 run, thanks to Jenkins, to push the lead to double digits, 40-29. The Lady Eagles closed out the quarter on a 5-2 run I the final 56 seconds.
Both teams battled throughout the fourth quarter as the Lady Techsters outscored Southern Miss 25-24 in the final period. Veiga scored 15 points in the period, hitting all four shots from the field and was also perfect from the line. The Lady Eagles shot 61.5 percent, but Louisiana Tech was able to top that with 71.4 percent from the field.
“I’m proud of our free throw shooting today,” McNelis said. “I thought we did a lot of good things.”
Brooke Pumroy led LA Tech with 14 points followed by Brandi Wingate and Ashley Santos with 13 points apiece. Wingate also pulled down a team-best six rebounds.
The Lady Eagles outrebounded LA Tech 50-29 and scored 12 second chance points.
Southern Miss travels to Charlotte on Jan. 7 and on to Old Dominion on Jan. 9 in a two-game C-USA series. The tip time for Charlotte is 11 a.m. central time and for ODU it’s 3 p.m.