OLE MISS

Rebels Ready For SEC Tournament

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The Ole Miss women's basketball team looks to carry the momentum from a 73-71 overtime win over Auburn on Senior Day this past Sunday into this week's Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. 

The Rebels are the No. 14 seed and will open tournament play against 11-seed Arkansas in the first round Wednesday (7:30 p.m. CT, Fox Sports South/SportSouth).

"We're coming off a win over a good Auburn team on Sunday," said head coach Matt Insell on Monday's SEC teleconference. "We have been playing really good basketball over the last three or four games, probably the best ball we have played all year. We very easily could have be coming into this game on a three- or four-game winning streak." 

The win over Auburn snapped a nine-game losing streak and gave Ole Miss (11-19, 2-14) its second SEC victory after defeating intrastate rival Mississippi State on Jan. 23. 

Senior guard Valencia McFarland leads the Rebels in scoring averaging 16.9 points per game, while junior Tia Faleru nearly averages a double-double with 16.8 points per game and an SEC-best 9.8 rebounds per game. 

McFarland and Faleru rank fourth and fifth in the SEC in scoring, respectively. Defensively, Ole Miss has held its opponents to 75 points or less in each of its last four games after doing so just twice through its first 12 SEC games.

"Getting that win there was huge for us for our confidence going into the SEC Tournament," Insell said. "We feel really confident going into the tournament because every team that we played we had a chance to win games. We played just about everybody in the league outside of South Carolina and maybe Kentucky. We had chances throughout each of those games to have a chance to win those games. 

"We have a lot of confidence going into the SEC Tournament and coming off a win against Auburn, a good team that finished sixth in the league, and to beat them on your home floor without your so-called best player and you beat them, that's a huge confidence boost for our other kids."

Faleru missed this past Sunday's game against Auburn due to injury. In her place, junior forward Danielle McCray was one rebound shy of a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds, while senior forward Kenyotta Jenkins also finished in double figures with 10 points.

"It looks like she will be ready to go on Wednesday, but that will in the doctor's hands," said Insell of Faleru. "She had a concussion when she last played versus Missouri. She went in to try to tip a ball in there at the end and she got a concussion."

This will be the second meeting between Ole Miss and Arkansas this season. The Rebels erased a 16-point second-half deficit and then led by as many seven points before the Razorbacks (19-10, 6-10 SEC) battled back to win the first meeting 68-65 in Fayetteville on Jan. 19. 

Arkansas is coming off a 72-70 home win over Missouri this past Sunday. The Razorbacks also have a top-25 win at No. 18 LSU on Feb. 23.

"We need to go one game at a time," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen said. "We need to take care of business against Ole Miss, which has proven they can beat anybody in this league. They took Baylor at Baylor right down to the wire. They finished last place in our conference, and that statement says a lot about the SEC."

The winner of Wednesday's game will advance to play 6-seed Auburn in the second round Thursday (7:30 p.m. CT, SportSouth), and the winner of that matchup will advance to play 3-seed Texas A&M in the quarterfinals Friday (7:30 p.m. CT, SportSouth).

"For us to get any kind of postseason play, we have to win the tournament, which is kind of unheard of from where we're at," Insell said. "I told them we have to play loose. We're playing with house money, and our players know that. We have been playing loose lately and playing the best basketball we have played all year.

"For a player like Valencia McFarland, our goal each day with her being a senior is to earn her 40 more minutes. How can we get her 40 minutes? Can you give everything you have? If you will give everything you have as team, then hopefully that can earn her 40 more minutes and she can continue her basketball career."

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