Rebels Take Stage at SEC Tipoff 2017
Rebels looking good in early practices
Cope will serve as video coordinator
Rebels hold first official practice on Sunday afternoon
Conner was one of two four-time All-SEC first team selections in program history
Leading a young team, which featured no seniors and just two players who had been in the program for more than two years, Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell and the Ole Miss women’s basketball team had some exciting moments throughout the 2015-16 season.
For the second consecutive season, the Rebels knocked off a ranked foe and this time it was then-No. 9 Kentucky, giving the Rebels their first win over a top 10 opponent since 2010 when they defeated then-No. 8 Georgia. Ole Miss has defeated three ranked opponents during the Matt Insell era. 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 tie 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 January 3, 2016. Junior Erika Sisk hit a basket at the buzzer to give Ole Miss a 55-52 win over Vanderbilt and an Ole Miss women’s basketball win in the final game at Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Rebels, who posted seven more 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 the No. 7 in the league standings and earned the No. 8 seed for the SEC Tournament – the highest seed for the Rebels in the last five seasons.
Leading a young team, that featured eight newcomers, Insell was able to develop his youngsters 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 and she 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 and was a College Sports Madness fourth team All-American.
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 and 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.
After battling through the always challenging SEC schedule, the Rebels entered the SEC Tournament at 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 Rebel's 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.
Insell was named the head coach of the Ole Miss women's basketball team on March 28, 2013. Insell came to Oxford quite familiar with the Rebels after spending the previous five years as the top assistant on Matthew Mitchell's staff at Kentucky.
He helped guide Kentucky to four 20-win seasons and four trips to the NCAA Tournament in his time in Lexington. The Wildcats have ended the last three seasons he was on staff 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.
Prior to Kentucky, Insell was the Director of Basketball Operations at Louisiana Tech under Coach Chris Long. Before that, he was considered one of the top AAU coaches in the country, coaching the Tennessee Flight, a Nike Elite Travel Program, for three years. 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 2001-2005. He worked closely with both the men and women's basketball programs, serving as a student assistant/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.
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