Jan. 23, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — Through the first five SEC games, Ole Miss had lost three games by nine points or less. On Thursday night, the Rebels made more winning plays than losing plays, as Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State 87-85 in overtime on Thursday night.
The Rebels fought back from down 11 points in the second half to force overtime and then earned their first SEC win of the season and the Matt Insell era.
“I got a little emotional with them after the game there in the locker room because I’m so proud of them,” head coach Matt Insell said. “We have been close a lot this year. We have been right there with a chance to win those type games.
“It took us 45 minutes to get that one. It took us 44 minutes and 59 seconds to get it, but I’m very happy to get that win. I’m very happy with my basketball team. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Among those winning plays were the last two plays by Kenyotta Jenkins.
She got a steal and forced a Mississippi State turnover to give Ole Miss the ball back with 8.2 seconds left in overtime. And on the following possession, Valencia McFarland got into the lane and missed a lay-up, but Jenkins followed with a tip-in with 0.8 seconds left.
“I knew I just had to get in on the rim any kind of way, whether it went in or not, I knew (Kenyotta) was going to get it because every day in practice that’s what she does,” McFarland said.
“I work on that off-side tip-in for the rebound every day in practice, so I knew that I had to get it to go in to win the game,” Jenkins said.
Aside from those two timely plays by Jenkins, as well as the individual efforts of McFarland (27 points and 12 assists) and Tia Faleru (20 points and 15 rebounds), there were a couple of other plays and stretches that stand out from Thursday night’s win.
A pair of defensive plays — first a hustle play by Gracie Frizzell to get a steal and throw the ball out of bounds off a Mississippi State and then a defensive 10-second count off a missed free throw — sparked a 10-1 Ole Miss run midway through the second half.
“That’s something we had been working on,” Insell said of the press off the missed free throw. “I didn’t tell them to get into that press. We miss a lot of free throws, so we have to prepare for what happens when we miss, and so we prepared for what happens when we miss.
“We miss the free throw, and they did not panic and jumped into the 2-2-1 press right away. We got a huge 10-second call, got the ball back and scored on that possession. That was a big turning point in the game.”
And then toward the end of regulation, McFarland hit her first and only 3-pointer of the game to give Ole Miss a 76-75 lead with 2:40 left.
On the other end, the Rebels held Mississippi State to just one point the rest of regulation, as Tia Faleru grabbed the defensive rebound on each of the last three defensive possessions.
“We would watch film every morning before practice when we were out of school on why we were losing those games, not stuff that I pointed out,” Insell said. “We would watch the final eight minutes. Each play, what was a winning play and what was a losing play during that eight minutes that cost us the game, and we had more losing plays than winning plays, so they could see why were losing those games.”
“Tonight, we had more winning plays. Tia Faleru got the rebound when she had to get the rebound. We had five people under there getting boards. We executed offensively. They did what I asked them to do.”
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