Jan. 2, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss dropped its SEC opener to Missouri, 85-76, on Thursday night at the Tad Smith Coliseum. It was just the Rebels' second defeat in their last nine games, which also included a seven-game win streak and a hard-fought 87-80 loss at No. 9 Baylor.
One of the keys entering the game was Missouri's 3-point shooting versus the Ole Miss 3-point defense. The Tigers ranked third in the SEC shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range, including a league-best 133 3-pointers, while the Rebels led the SEC limiting opponent to just 20.8 percent from behind the arc.
Missouri shot a season-best 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from 3-point range, including one 3-pointer that extended the lead to 81-74 with 58 seconds left after two offensive rebounds.
"They did what they do," head coach Matt Insell said. "They make a lot of threes and they're one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. We focused in on that all week on how to guard that and we let them go 15-of-24 from the three-point line, and you're not going to win if you let someone shoot 15-of-24 from the three-point line. As bad as we guarded, we had a chance down four, where you get a stop, but you just can't corral the rebound.
"It goes back to Baylor where I keep telling them your one rebound away, and we have to figure out how to get those rebounds there at crucial times, so we can come back down and have a chance to win. All credit to Missouri. We'll grow from this game and get better. We have to have a short-term memory in this league."
The Tigers led by as many as 10 points in the first half and 12 in the second half, and despite shooting 26.3 percent in the first half, the Rebels never went away. Early in the second half, junior Amber Singletary and freshman Shequila Joseph hit back-to-back 3's to give Ole Miss a 42-41 lead with 17:13 left, but Missouri had an answer.
"There could have been times today where this team could have quit," Insell said. "I promise you a month and a half ago they would have quit, but they didn't. They kept pushing forward. We took a lead, and we got to figure out when we take that lead, how to find a little more in you. We haven't found little bit more yet, but we're going to keep pushing every day in practice to find that little bit more."
With a 9-6 record, Ole Miss has equaled the team's win total from 2012-13, and Insell credits the overall change within the program to confidence and preparation. The Rebels seek their 10th win of the season next Thursday at No. 5 Tennessee, which moved to 11-2 after an 80-77 loss to No. 16 LSU on Thursday night.
"They're starting to prepare themselves to win," Insell said of his team. "This is a unique situation where we have lost a lot of game over the last six years. A lot of people expect to think that they're going to watch the women's team and they're probably going to lose. We have to change that mentality.
"That's something that's starting to change. Our kids are starting to believe that they're good and that they can win. We did a lot of things to beat ourselves here. I give Missouri total credit, but we could have stopped them on some things that they were doing and we could have showed some more toughness offensively and scored some baskets at the rim that could have won us this basketball game, so we'll go back and look at the things that we can fix and we'll fix that and get better from it."
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller