The Southern women held South Alabama without a field goal for the final eight minutes and rallied for a 50-45 victory Friday night in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.
South Alabama led by eight points at halftime but scored just 16 second-half points, making six field goals in 19 attempts and missing all five of its 3-pointers.
“Coach (Sandy Pugh) told us at halftime that we had to step it up,” post player Jadea Brundidge said. “We huddled up and said we have to start playing our game.”
Southern started the third quarter with a concerted effort to get the ball inside. After Skyler O’Bear scored on a driving layup, four baskets — two by Miaya Crowder and one each by Cortnei Purnell and Brianna Green — came during an 11-2 run that gave Southern a 32-31 lead.
USA went nearly seven minutes without scoring, but Southern couldn’t extend the lead. Back-to-back layups by Marquita Daniels off of steals gave USA a 35-32 lead.
Brundidge made two free throws and a layup to send Southern into the fourth quarter with a 36-35 lead.
South Alabama made three layups in the first 1:50 of the fourth quarter on its way to a 42-38 lead, but then Southern’s defense took over.
During a timeout after the third layup, Purnell said, “we’ve got to start playing Southern defense.”
USA made 4 of 8 free throws for all of its scoring in the final eight minutes.
“I think the post play was the difference in the game,” Pugh said. “I think we wore their post players down.”
Jumpers by Green and Kenidi Robinson tied the score before USA (1-1) took its final lead on LaNeetra Guillory’s free throw with 5:00 left.
Green made a jumper and a layup before Daniels’ two free throws cut Southern’s lead to 46-45 with 3:12 left.
USA had a chance to go ahead, but Colby Davis’ layup was waved off as Green drew an offensive foul from her.
An offensive rebound by Purnell and Purnell’s steal after a tip from O’Bear got the clock down to 19 seconds before USA started fouling.
Crowder made one of two free throws before Taylor Jenkins missed a layup for USA. Robinson made 1-of-2 free throws for a three-point lead before USA’s Genesis Perrymond hit the side of the backboard on a wide-open 3-pointer.
Green made two free throws with 0.7 seconds left.
“It just came down to a team effort on defense,” Green said, “and us really wanting to get the win.”
O’Bear was the only Southern player in double figures, scoring 11, including three 3-pointers that provided much of the first-half scoring. Brundidge had eight points and seven rebounds, and Green had eight points and five rebounds.
Daniels led USA with 14 points and Perrymond scored 10.
Southern (2-1) visits Nebraska on Monday.