Tipoff is Set for Noon on SEC Network
Freshman Promise Taylor Recorded Her Second Career Double-Double
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Madinah Muhammad led Ole Miss with 14 points
Ole Miss Leads the All-Time Series, 63-30
Fifth-year Rebels head coach Matt Insell has Ole Miss women's basketball on the rise entering the 2017-18 season following several highly-touted recruiting classes and a pair of trips back to the postseason.
Insell, the son of Hall of Fame coach Rick Insell at Middle Tennessee State, is 58-68 through four seasons with the Rebels, which includes four top-25 wins and two 17-plus win seasons amidst the intense strength of schedule in the SEC. Insell was named the eighth head women's basketball coach in Ole Miss history on March 28, 2013, following five seasons coaching against the Rebels as an assistant on Matthew Mitchell's staff at Kentucky.
The Insell-led Rebels are coming off a successful 2016-17 campaign that saw at 17-14 record and a return trip to the postseason with a WNIT berth. Ole Miss opened its brand-new arena, The Pavilion at Ole Miss, with 12-straight home wins -- the most home wins in the Insell era and the most since the late `80s when Ole Miss won 15 straight. Ole Miss also set a new attendance record for the third straight year with 8,088 fans in attendance to see the Rebels earn their 800th win in program history over Jackson State.
Ole Miss recorded some significant wins in 2016-17, knocking off eventual Elite Eight school and 25th-ranked Oregon at home, 83-67 -- marking the third-straight season with a top-25 win under Insell. The Rebels also ended a pair of long losing streaks during the year, breaking a 28-game losing streak that dated back to 1996 against Tennessee (67-62), as well as picking up the first win over Texas A&M since 1997 on Senior Night with a 62-49 victory.
On the court, senior Erika Sisk and junior Shandricka Sessom became the 27th and 28th 1,000-point scorers in Ole Miss history, while sophomore Madinah Muhammad increased her offensive production by nearly six points from her freshman campaign.
Insell led a young team in 2015-16 with just two seniors and only two returnees that had been in the program for more than two seasons, but the Rebels still produced some exciting moments on the court. For the second consecutive season, the Rebels knocked off a ranked foe with a 67-59 victory over No. 9 Kentucky -- Insell's old school of five years. The win was the first over a top-10 school for Ole Miss since 2010, when the Rebels took down No. 8 Georgia (66-65). For her career-best 21 points against the Wildcats, junior Shequila Joseph was named SEC Player of the Week.
With a group that featured eight underclassmen, Insell and his staff were instrumental in the growth of sophomore Shandricka Sessom. Sessom, who averaged just 5.3 points as a freshman, increased her scoring to 15.6 points per game and was ranked in the top-10 of the SEC for scoring all season. Additionally, freshman Madinah Muhammad was a bright spot. The Chicago native, averaged 7.5 points per game as rookie, which was third best on the Ole Miss squad. That number increased to 8.4 points per game against SEC competition, which trailed just Sessom's 13.4 points per game against SEC foes.
Additionally, the Rebels saw several exciting moments at Tad Smith Coliseum before moving to their new home, The Pavilion at Ole Miss, in January. Freshman Torri Lewis set the single-game record for three-point field goals with 10 triples in a win over New Orleans. Her 10 triples tied her with former Ole Miss men's player Marshall Henderson for the most three-pointers made at Tad Smith Coliseum. Ole Miss also closed the "Tad Pad" in style on Jan. 3, 2016, with junior Erika Sisk nailing a buzzer-beater for a 55-52 win over Vanderbilt.
In just his second year at Ole Miss, Insell took the Rebels to new heights in 2014-15 with 19 wins and seven victories in SEC play, the most overall wins since the 2009-10 season. The Rebels also returned to the postseason with a third-round foray into the WNIT.
The Rebels, who improved seven wins in 2014-15, posted four wins over NCAA Tournament participants, and, after being picked to finish last in the SEC preseason coaches and media poll, closed the season tied for No. 7 in the league standings. Ole Miss garnered the No. 8 seed for the SEC Tournament -- the highest seed for the Rebels in five seasons.
Leading a young team that featured eight newcomers, Insell was able to develop his team throughout the season. Freshman A'Queen Hayes took over the starting point guard position midway through the season and excelled, earning her SEC Freshman of the Week honors on January 12 and a spot on the All-Freshman team. Senior forward Tia Faleru picked up where she left off during her junior campaign and became the first SEC player to average a double-double since Georgia's Porsha Phillips in 2010-11. She also became the first player to lead the league in rebounding in back-to-back seasons since LSU's Sylvia Fowles led the league from 2006-08. For her efforts, Faleru was an All-SEC First-Team selection and the only unanimous selection on the Associated Press' All-SEC First-Team. She also earned Honorable Mention AP All-American accolades.
Insell and the Rebels knocked off ranked foes in No. 13 Kentucky and No. 18 Georgia -- the first time in five years Ole Miss had defeated a ranked foe. The season also saw Ole Miss pick up its 400th win at Tad Smith Coliseum. One of the high points of the season was when Insell and his father made women's basketball history by becoming the first father-son duo to play against each other in NCAA women's basketball when Middle Tennessee made the trip to Oxford in November.
Insell laid the foundation for the Rebels during his first season in 2013-14, leading Ole Miss to a 10-6 non-conference record and a seven-game winning streak -- the longest streak for the Rebels since the 2007-08 season. Insell led Ole Miss to a near non-conference upset of eventual Sweet 16 team Baylor, who battled back in the final minutes to win 87-80 -- but, giving fans a glimpse of the success to come under the vision of Insell in the process.
After battling through the always-challenging SEC schedule, the Rebels entered the SEC Tournament as the No. 14 seed, determined to take the momentum from a regular season finale victory over Auburn into the postseason tournament. Drawing the No. 11 seed Arkansas, the Rebels took care of business with a 63-62 victory, giving Ole Miss a statement win for Insell's process. "I didn't look at it as rebuilding, I looked at it as a process of getting us back to the top," said Insell after the SEC Tournament win. "A win like this helps you get there."
Insell also led the Rebels to wins over instate rival, Mississippi State, to give the first-year head coach his first SEC victory. In addition to the Rebels' battle with 2014 Elite Eight participant, Baylor, Ole Miss posted victories against women's basketball powerhouse, Louisiana Tech, and sent the Ole Miss senior class out in style with a Senior Day overtime win over Auburn at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Prior to his time leading the Rebels, Insell spent five years as an assistant coach for a very successful Kentucky Wildcat team under head coach Matthew Mitchell. While there, UK recorded four 20-win seasons and four tripes to the NCAA Tournament -- ending each of the last three seasons he spent in Lexington ranked in the top-25.
Insell, who was responsible for the guards while also having recruiting and player development duties, served as the top assistant coach and helped UK ink three top-10 recruiting classes and seven McDonald's All-Americans. During his time at Kentucky, Insell helped develop guard A'dia Mathies, a two-time SEC Player of the Year and All-America candidate, and Bria Goss who was named SEC Freshman of the Year.
Before his time at Kentucky, Insell was the director of basketball operations at Louisiana tech under head coach Chris Long.
Insell ended up at Louisiana Tech following an extremely successful career as one of the top AAU coaches in the country, leading the Tennessee Flight -- a Nike Elite travel program. Insell made a national name for himself after coaching 41 of his former AAU players to play Division I basketball, including former Wildcats Victoria Dunlap and Crystal Riley. He also coached the Shelbyville Sports Shop 15-Under team to the AAU National Championship title in 2004. Insell earned valuable basketball experience while attending the University of Tennessee from 2001-05. He worked closely with both the men's and women's basketball programs, serving as a student assistant and video coordinator under former men's head coach Buzz Peterson and as an instructor at Pat Summitt's summer basketball camps. The Shelbyville, Tenn., native transferred to Middle Tennessee State during the 2005-06 season where his father, Rick Insell, is the head women's basketball coach. He went on to earn his bachelor's degree in political science from MTSU in 2007.
Insell Milestone Wins:
What They Are Saying About Matt Insell:
Rick Insell, Head Women's Basketball Coach, Middle Tennessee State
Matthew Mitchell, Head Women's Basketball Coach, Kentucky
Ross Bjork, Athletics Director, Ole Miss
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