Slow Start Proves Costly as Rebels Fall to No. 2 Mississippi State
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OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss won the second half 31-30, but a 19-4 run by No. 2 Mississippi State in the first frame ended up being the difference in a hard-fought 69-49 loss to the Bulldogs at The Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.
The Rebels (11-10, 1-7 SEC) were able to out-rebound the defending national runners-up Mississippi State (22-0, 8-0 SEC) and hold national player of the year candidate Teaira McCowan (six points, 10 rebounds) to single-digit scoring for just the fourth time this season, but State's Victoria Vivians went off for 25 points to keep the Rebels at bay.
"Very similar to the game down there," said Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell. "We got off to a real sluggish start. All credit to them. I told our team in there, State's kids play really hard. They try to take you out of everything you try to do. If you can get really tough and push through that, then you have a great chance at beating them. But we were not real tough to start the game. As we settled in, I thought we played well again, but you can't put yourself in a hole."
Ole Miss was able to receive strong performances out of Madinah Muhammad (16 points) and Promise Taylor (10 points, 13 rebounds), but second-leading scorer Alissa Alston (five points) only played 16 minutes due to foul trouble to hinder the Rebel offensive assault.
Muhammad scored all 16 points in the back half after being held scoreless for nearly two and a half quarters. Muhammad had to put the team on her back with Alston on the bench, playing 39 minutes today -- the ninth straight game she has played at least 37 minutes.
Freshman Promise Taylor also had a big second half, scoring six of her 10 points and hauling in nine of her 13 rebounds in the back half. Taylor now has three career double-doubles, and her three blocks today inch her closer to the single-season record of 67 set by Shawn Goff in 2008. Taylor currently has 58 with eight games left in the regular season.
Fellow freshman Chyna Nixon also received valuable playing time against the 2nd-ranked Bulldogs, scoring six and hauling in a career-high eight rebounds in her 15th start of the season.
"I thought some kids grew up today," Insell said. "I challenged Chyna Nixon. Freshman out there playing on a big stage, six points, eight rebounds -- I'm very happy with her. She's got a bright future. She's playing minutes you wouldn't want her to play at this point in her career. You want her to be a freshman who is getting 10-12 minutes a game. But she's having to play a lot older than where she's at. Then you've got Promise Taylor in there. Probably the most talented young post player in this league. I think that was very evident today, going against Tearia McCowan, who is one of, if not the best, post players in the country. Those two kids, from a future standpoint, they're as good as there is in this league. I think Taylor is very easily one of the top two freshmen in this league. Her future is really bright."
Ole Miss now looks to regroup when Vanderbilt comes to town on Thursday night. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. inside The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
"We're very close," Insell said. "We played a tough stretch of games against a lot of tough teams. We've got to go back to work and be ready to play Vanderbilt on Thursday and go to Georgia on Sunday. We'll get it right."
Follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissWBB, Facebook at Ole Miss WBB on Instagram at Ole MissWBB and on Snapchat with the handle @OleMissWBB. Fans can also follow Ole Miss women's basketball head coach Matt Insell on Twitter at @minsell.
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