HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Louisiana Tech didn’t overwhelm Southern Mississippi in the second half in a rematch of the teams’ Thursday meeting, but Sunday, the Bulldogs made the final five minutes decisive.
Tech finished the day on a 16-5 game-ending run to come away with a 76-62 victory over USM, sweeping the two-game Conference USA basketball series on Sunday afternoon inside Reed Green Coliseum. It was on the heels of an 80-57 rout in Ruston when the Bulldogs led by as much as 34 after halftime.
Sunday’s game had 11 ties and eight lead changes. Tech (15-3, 6-0 C-USA) was up by three with five minutes remaining. The Bulldogs extended their winning streak to seven and remained unbeaten in conference play (the best start to C-USA in program history).
“Our group really executed beautifully down the stretch, especially on the offensive end,” said Bulldogs coach Eric Konkol. “It gave us a little bit more cushion and we were able to close the game out.”
Southern Miss (5-11, 1-3 C-USA) made eight straight free throws early in the second half to match its largest edge of the contest, up four with 17:45 left.
Despite foul issues, Kenneth Lofton, Jr. was dominant for Tech, notching a game-high 23 points. USM was held to 32.8 percent shooting.
Tech returns home to start a three-game homestand, beginning with a matchup against UAB on Saturday at 3.
LSU women 82, Vanderbilt 64: Defense paved the way for the Tigers to put away Vanderbilt, 82-64, as they improved to 17-2 and 5-1 in the SEC Sunday afternoon inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Commodores stayed close in the first half. LSU went into the break with a 43-36 lead. LSU came out in the second half on fire, making its first four shots on the way to outscoring Vanderbilt 23-9 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Faustine Aifuwa was 10-12 shooting the ball, and Alexis Morris (9-13) both had 20 points to lead the Tigers.
LSU shot 58.3-percent and held Vanderbilt to 33.8-percent shooting.
“I look at field goal percentage defense first and we want to hold our opponents to 39.9 (percent),” said first-year coach Kim Mulkey. “We’ve won some games where we didn’t do that. But if you can just always stress defense and you can always stress rebounding, I’m telling you, you’ll become a good coach.”
The former Lady Techster standout paid homage to her two primary coaching influences.
“Maybe it’s who I learned from. We’re talking about Pat Summitt, right? Pat Summitt, one of the greatest teachers to ever teach the women’s game. You didn’t play for her if you didn’t play defense, you didn’t play for Leon Barmore if you didn’t play defense.”
Summitt was Mulkey’s USA Olympic team coach for the 1984 gold medalists. Barmore coached her at Louisiana Tech and hired her as an assistant coach after her playing days.
LSU next plays at Florida in another Sunday game.
Photo: courtesy of LOUISIANA TECH