SMU Downs Southern Miss at Moody, 81-66

February 27, 2010  

By Nate Regan
nregan@smu.edu

The women’s basketball team earned a first-round bye in the 2010 GMC Sierra Conference USA Championship Tournament with an 81-66 victory Sunday over the University of Southern Mississippi at Moody Coliseum.

SMU (19-9, 9-6 C-USA) was led by 22 points from junior forward Haley Day and 11 rebounds from senior guard Brittany Gilliam, who also scored 19 points against the Golden Eagles (9-19, 5-10 C-USA) for her fourth double-double of the season.

The Mustangs received 15 points from senior guard Jillian Samuels, 10 from sophomore guard Samantha Mahnesmith and a career-high 11 points and six rebounds from sophomore post Heidi Brandenburg.

“We just played better team basketball,” head coach Rhonda Rompola said. “We made the extra pass a couple times, we got a couple of three [pointers] off the extra pass, and I thought it was just a good team victory.”

SMU played with a short roster as posts Christine Elliot and Alice Severin recover from injuries, and at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2, respectively, their presence near the basket was missed.

The Mustangs had a better shooting rate (25-for-55) than Southern Miss (22-for-68), but the Golden Eagles pulled down more rebounds and scored more points in the paint.

“We knew we had to pick it up because Chris [Elliot] puts up a lot of numbers,” Day said. “And so we knew with her hurt, everybody had to step up.”

Despite the limited roster, SMU led 42-32 at halftime and never trailed in the game.

“We’re a good team at home, and I don’t want our girls to ever forget that,” Rompola said. “It may not always be pretty, but we find ways to win at home, and that’s what good teams have to do.”

The Mustangs will try for their third consecutive 20-win season when they host Tulsa University in this year’s final regular-season game on Wednesday, and Rompola hopes for a better outcome against the Golden Hurricane than the 57-54 road loss on Feb. 18.

“Our start was really poor against Tulsa,” she said. “We just didn’t play well there, we didn’t hit our shots.”

Tip-off against the Golden Hurricane (12-13, 6-8 C-USA) is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Moody Coliseum.

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