Rebels Return Home to Host Defending NCAA Champions South Carolina


OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss women's basketball will play host to the defending NCAA champions for the first time since 2008 when No. 4/5 South Carolina comes to town on Thursday night for a 6 p.m. tipoff inside The Pavilion at Ole Miss.

TEAM FACTS

Ole Miss Rebels (10-4, 0-1 SEC)
Head Coach: Matt Insell • 5th Season at Ole Miss (68-72) • 68-72 career record (5th Season)

#4/5 South Carolina Gamecocks (12-1, 1-0 SEC)
Head Coach: Dawn Staley • 10th Season at South Carolina (233-81) • 405-161 career record (18th season)

ON THE AIR

Television/Online: SEC Network + | Play-by-Play: Seth Austin; Color: Lindsay Roy
Radio: 105.1 / 105.5 FM | Play-by-Play: Graham Doty
Audio: RebelVision (OleMissSports.com)

The Last Meeting
Ole Miss46
South Carolina65
January 19, 2017
Columbia, S.C.
Rebels Fall to No. 5 South Carolina
Taylor Manuel led a strong effort by the Ole Miss women's basketball team, but the Rebels weren't able to score the upset road win at No. 5 South Carolina.

SERIES NOTES

At Oxford: Ole Miss leads 8-7
At Columbia: South Carolina leads 11-5
At Neutral Sites: Ole Miss leads 5-2
Longest UM Streak: 5 (1992-95)
Longest USC Streak: 9 (2011-Present)
Biggest UM Win: 33 (2/5/95 - at Oxford)
Biggest USC Win: 29 (1/30/14 - at Columbia)
Most UM Points: 91 (2/4/95 - at Oxford)
Most USC Points: 99 (1/30/14 - at Columbia)
Last 10 Meetings: USC leads 9-1

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TEAM NOTES

DEFENDING CHAMPS COME TO TOWN
For the seventh time overall and the first time since the 2008 season, the defending NCAA champions will come to Oxford to take on the Rebels when South Carolina visits on Thursday -- the first-such meeting to ever take place in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.

That last occurrence was on Jan. 31, 2008, when Tennessee came to the Tad Smith Coliseum and won, 68-44. Current assistant coach Alex Simmons (then Alex Fuller) was a member of that Tennessee team in 2008, scoring 11 points with six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in the Lady Vol victory.

Ole Miss is 2-8 all-time against defending national champions, but this Thursday's tilt vs. South Carolina will mark the first against a team not named Tennessee or Maryland. The Rebels beat Maryland in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007 (89-78) to avenge a neutral site loss earlier in the year. Ole Miss also beat Tennessee, 80-78, in overtime on Jan. 18, 1992, in Oxford.

VS. SOUTH CAROLINA ALL-TIME
The Gamecocks hold a 21-17 lead over the Rebels in the all-time series, including the last nine meetings.

Ole Miss holds an 8-7 edge in Oxford, but South Carolina holds an 11-5 advantage in Columbia.

VS. RANKED COMPETITION
Ole Miss takes on its second ranked opponent of the season in No. 4/5 South Carolina after falling at No. 9 Oregon on Dec. 17 (90-46). The Rebels own 29 wins all-time against national top-10 teams, the last coming on Jan. 21, 2016 vs. No. 9 Kentucky (73-65).

That victory was the fourth top-25 win for head coach Matt Insell at Ole Miss, with other top-25 wins coming vs. No. 25 Oregon (Dec. 14, 2016; 83-67), No. 13 Kentucky (Feb. 23, 2015; 67-59) and No. 18 Georgia (Jan. 15, 2015; 55-52).

This will be the seventh all-time matchup against a top-10 South Carolina squad.

REBELS IN SEC OPENERS
Ole Miss is coming off its first SEC opening loss since 2014 after losing a 73-72 heartbreaker at Arkansas on Dec. 31, but the Rebels still have a chance to win their fourth-straight SEC home opener against South Carolina on Thursday.

In home SEC openers, Ole Miss is 28-10 all-time. The Rebels and Gamecocks have never met for the SEC home or SEC overall opener in their histories.

GRUELING SLATE
After completing a solid non-conference season at 10-3, Ole Miss women's basketball stares down a grueling SEC slate, particularly over the next couple weeks.

The Rebels square off against three opponents currently ranked in the national top-15 over the next five games: vs. No. 4/5 South Carolina on Jan. 4 (12-1, RPI 12), at No. 3/5 Mississippi State on Jan. 11 (15-0, RPI 3) and vs. No. 15 Missouri on Jan. 18 (13-1, RPI 14).

The SEC sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and ended with the two in the title game: defending national champions South Carolina and reigning NCAA runners-up Mississippi State.

In the non-conference season, the SEC went 132-39 (.772) overall -- the 13th-best conference winning percentage since 1990-91 and the 28th season in a row that the conference has won at least 70 percent of its non-conference games.

LAST TIME OUT (at Arkansas)
Ole Miss showed immense heart in erasing a 15-point deficit on the road, but the Rebels fell 73-72 to Arkansas in the SEC on Dec. 31.

The Rebels had the ball twice in the final 25 seconds, but a floater by Alissa Alston bounced off the rim and a gutsy in-bounds pass strategy by Alston backfired, giving Arkansas the ball as time expired.

After a back-and-forth battle, it was the fourth quarter where the Rebels made their last stand and erased the Razorback lead, tying the game 67-67 with 4:18 left to play.

Sophomore Shelby Gibson led the way for the second-straight game, scoring another new career-high 21 points. Juniors Alissa Alston (18 points) and Madinah Muhammad (17) chipped in as well.

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL NON-CON
Ole Miss finished the non-conference season at 10-3, the fifth year in all five of the Matt Insell era to feature at least nine non-conference wins and the third to record at least 10 wins.

The Rebels have beaten three teams currently in the NCAA RPI Top-150: Middle Tennessee (118), South Alabama (124) and Temple (145). At the moment, Ole Miss ranks No. 86 in the RPI.

MULTIPLE TOP-SCORERS
Ole Miss is one of just three teams in the SEC to currently boast two scorers with at least 16.0 points per game. For the Rebels, those top scorers are juniors Madinah Muhammad (17.8 PPG) and Alissa Alston (16.0 PPG), the only duo alongside No. 3/5 Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan (20.3 PPG) and Victoria Vivians (19.8 PPG), and No. 7 Tennessee's Jaime Nared (17.4 PPG) and Mercedes Russell (16.4 PPG).

Since the injury to senior Preseason All-SEC selection Shandricka Sessom on Nov. 29, Muhammad and Alston are averaging a combined 33.8 PPG.

GETTING TO THE LINE
After a rusty start at the free throw line this year, Ole Miss has blossomed into one of the more prolific teams on the charity stripe. The Rebels ranks 10th in the NCAA in total free throw attempts (321) and 23rd in free throws made (213), a far cry from the early stretches of the year.

The Rebels were only able to get to the line a total of 66 times in the first four games of the season, which then skyrocketed to 164 times over the following six games. With the first four games taken out, the Rebels are averaging 25.5 trips to the free throw line in the following 10 games.

The surge began with 37 against Troy on Nov. 21 -- the most since Ole Miss attempted 38 vs. Florida on Jan. 8, 2015. The Rebels also sank 29 of those 37 free throw attempts, the most conversions since hitting 25 that same game vs. Florida in 2014-15. Madinah Muhammad was 12-of-13 from the line in that game alone, the most in a game in the SEC at the time and the most by a Rebel since Alissa Alston sank 12 vs. Auburn on Feb. 16, 2017.

The Rebels followed that up with a crucial game on the free throw line vs. Middle Tennessee, going 26-of-31. Much of that came from Alston, who went 14-of-16 -- the most makes since Tia Faleru hit 15 at Missouri on Feb. 15, 2015. Alston was just two shy of the single-game record set by Armintie Price at UAB in 2006-07.

WINNING WHEN IT COUNTS
Ole Miss is 4-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer, proving its ability to hang on throughout the non-conference season. In those games, the Rebels are only shooting .284 from three and are being out-rebounded by nearly four boards a game (43.4-39.0), but are finding a way to stay ahead with a .413 shooting percentage (while holding opponents to just .358 overall).

In those games, junior Alissa Alston is the Rebels' top scorer by far with 22.4 PPG and a .540 clip from the field and an .816 mark from the free throw line. Fellow junior Madinah Muhammad is second at 17.8 PPG with a blistering .907 mark from the charity stripe.

Last season, Ole Miss went 5-6 in such games.

BLOCK PARTY
Ole Miss has been a dominant force in shot blocking this season, thanks primarily to freshman center Promise Taylor. The Rebels rank 24th in the NCAA in blocks per game (5.6) and 23rd in total blocks (78) -- 40 of which come from Taylor, who ranks 11th in total blocks and 12th in blocks per game (2.9). The Rebels have blocked at least five shots in all but but five games this season and have swatted seven or more on five different occasions.

Because of the surge in blocked shots, the Rebels -- at 5.6 blocks per game -- are currently on pace for 162 total blocks by season's end, potentially destroying the current single-season record of 129 set in 1982-83.

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INDIVIDUAL NOTES

SHELBY'S HEATING UP
Sophomore Shelby Gibson entered the Dec. 28 contest vs. Texas Southern averaging just 3.4 points and 10.3 minutes per game, but over the last 80 minutes of basketball she has turned into a bonafide scoring machine for the Rebels.

In her last two games, Gibson has scored 41 total points on 16-of-21 shooting (.762) in career-high outings vs. Texas Southern (20 points) and at Arkansas (21 points). The back-to-back performances constitute the first consecutive games of Gibson's career with at least 15 points scored, and her first games leading Ole Miss in points since scoring 15 at Kentucky on Jan. 26, 2017.

#SplashSisters, PART DEUX?
With one half of the #SplashSisters, senior guard Shandricka Sessom, out for the season due to a torn ACL, it's been junior point guard Alissa Alston that has picked up the slack and formed a formidable duo with fellow junior Madinah Muhammad.

At the time of her injury, both Sessom and Muhammad were scoring a combined 38.2 points per game -- 45.7 percent of all Rebel scoring at that point. Since that game vs. Middle Tennessee, Alston has given Ole Miss a boost with 17.6 PPG in those eight games -- including a career-high 27 points vs. South Alabama and additional 20-point outings vs. Middle Tennessee (22) and at Portland State (21).

Since Sessom's injury, both Alston and Muhammad have combined for 33.4 PPG and are shooting a combined .396 from the field and .824 from the free throw line for 80 total free throws.

REBOUNDING MACHINE
She may not score a lot of points, but sophomore Bree Glover has been invaluable on the glass for the Rebels. Glover, who has earned her first two career starts in each of the last two games vs. Texas Southern and at Arkansas, is averaging 5.1 boards per game and has had seven boards or more in a game five times this season -- including a career-high 10 vs. Texas Southern.

SLICE AND DICE
Junior point guard Alissa Alston has begun to shore up her scoring bonafides as a legitimate threat off the dribble this season. Alston has eclipsed the 20-point mark four times, including leading the way vs. South Alabama with a career-high 27 points on a near-perfect 10-of-11 shooting day from the field. Alston also owns a 26-point performance vs. Troy on Nov. 21 (then a career-high), 22 points on national TV in a win vs. Middle Tennessee on Nov. 29 and a 21-point outing at Portland State.

She is currently in the midst of a career-long six-game streak in double-digit scoring.

OH MY, SHE'S ON FIRE
Junior guard Madinah Muhammad has barely had a cold moment on the floor this season as the top scorer for the Rebels.

Muhammad currently ranks sixth in the SEC at 17.8 points per game and has only been held under double-digit twice in 14 games played this year. Additionally, Muhammad has scored at least 19 points seven times this season, she has eclipsed 20 five times and she recorded the first 30-point game at Ole Miss since 2015 with a career-high 30 vs. Arkansas State.

She opened the season with five straight games in double-digits, the second streak in her career of at least five in a row (her career-long streak is six from Jan. 22 to Feb. 12 last season). Muhammad also scored three straight games with at least 20 points for the first time in her Rebel career during that time.

SETTING MILESTONES
Madinah Muhammad is on pace to be one of the top scorers by the end of her Ole Miss career. The Chicago native just recently passed 800 career points, currently sitting at 840 and a career average of 11.7 PPG. At her current season pace of 17.8 points per game, Muhammad is on pace to reach 1,107 by season's end -- putting her well within the realm of becoming the 29th Rebel to score 1,000 points in a career. If she does, she will become the second junior in as many years to do so (senior Shandricka Sessom did so in 2016-17), and the third in the last six seasons (Valencia McFarland, 2012-13).

ON PACE FOR GREATNESS
Freshman Promise Taylor is on pace to annihilate the single-season blocks record. At her current pace of 2.9 per game, Taylor would have 83 total blocks by season's end -- dismantling the previous record of 67 set by Shawn Goff in 2007-08.

TOURNAMENT TEAMS ON THE DOCKET
Ole Miss plays 12 schools in 2017-18 that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2016-17. The Rebels came out victorious against the first, Troy (96-93), and won at Temple, 64-48, before losing at No. 9 Oregon on Dec. 17. Five of the next seven Ole Miss opponents were NCAA Tournament teams a year ago.

Troy (Nov. 21, W, 96-93)
1st Round, lost to runner-up Mississippi St.

Temple (Nov. 25, W, 64-48)
1st Round, lost to Oregon

Oregon (Dec. 17, L, 90-46)
Elite Eight, lost to UConn

Texas Southern (Dec. 28, W, 73-58)
1st Round, lost to Baylor

South Carolina (Jan. 4, at home)
Defending NCAA Champions

Mississippi State (Jan. 11; Jan. 28)
Defending NCAA runners-up

Missouri (Jan. 18, at home)
2nd Round, lost to Florida State

Tennessee (Jan. 25, in Knoxville)
2nd Round, lost to Louisville

Texas A&M (Feb. 8, in College Station)
2nd Round, lost to UCLA

LSU (Feb. 15, in Baton Rouge)
1st Round, lost to Cal

Kentucky (Feb. 22, at home)
2nd Round, lost to Ohio State

Auburn (Feb. 25, in Auburn)
1st Round, lost to NC State

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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