Rebels Face Another Big Road Test at No. 10 Tennessee
Jan. 23, 2018
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Ole Miss women’s basketball faces another tough road test at No. 10 Tennessee on Thursday night.
Ole Miss Rebels (11-8, 1-5 SEC)
Head Coach: Matt Insell • 5th Season at Ole Miss (69-76) • 69-76 career record (5th Season)
No. 10 Tennessee Lady Vols (16-3, 4-2 SEC)
Head Coach: Holly Warlick • 6th Season at Tennessee (144-48) • 144-48 career record (6th season)
ON THE AIR
Television/Online: SEC Network + | Play-by-Play: Bob Kesling; Color: Andraya Carter
Radio: 105.1 / 105.5 FM | Play-by-Play: Graham Doty; Color: Lindsay Roy
Audio: RebelVision (OleMissSports.com)
SERIES NOTES (Tennessee leads, 44-8)
At Oxford: Tennessee leads 19-4
At Knoxville: Tennessee leads 20-2
At Neutral Sites: Tennessee leads 5-2
Longest UM Streak: 4 (1985-87)
Longest UT Streak: 28 (1996-2016)
Biggest UM Win: 14 (2/5/86 - at Oxford)
Biggest UT Win: 67 (2/8/01 - at Knoxville)
Most UM Points: 83 (3/1/86 - at Athens)
Most UT Points: 119 (2/8/01 - at Knoxville)
Last 10 Meetings: Tennessee leads 9-1
HISTORIC WIN IN 2017
Ole Miss notched a historic win vs. Tennessee in 2017, defeating the Lady Vols for the first time in more than two decades On Jan. 12, 2017, the Rebels claimed a 67-62 win over Tennessee in Oxford -- the first Ole Miss win in the series since Feb. 4, 1996 (78-72). The stat sheet was nearly identical, and the game featured several wild runs with the Rebels taking the first quarter, 21-11, and the Lady Vols the second at 21-6. But Ole Miss hung on for a 40-30 advantage in the back half for the win -- holding Tennessee to just 1-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc on the night.
Four Lady Vols were in double-digit scoring, but current junior Madinah Muhammad led Ole Miss with 21 points, and Shandricka Sessom chipped in with a double-double at 14 points and 11 boards.
ALL-TIME VS. TENNESSEE
The long-time national powerhouse Lady Vols hold a commanding lead in the all-time series at 44-8. Tennessee holds a 20-2 advantage in Knoxville and a 19-4 edge in Oxford, as well as a 5-2 record in neutral site games.
Ole Miss snapped the longest streak in the series last year at 28 straight Lady Vol wins, and looks to snap another one this Thursday night: Ole Miss has not won in Knoxville in 31 years. The last Rebel team to do so took a 69-65 win on Jan. 31, 1987, while Tennessee was ranked No. 3.
VS. RANKED COMPETITION
Ole Miss takes on its fifth ranked opponent of the season in No. 10 Tennessee after falling at No. 9 Oregon on Dec. 17 (90-46), vs. No. 4 South Carolina on Jan. 4 (88-62), at No. 3 Mississippi State on Jan. 11 (76-45) and vs. No. 11 Missouri on Jan. 18 (67-48). 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).
Ole Miss has won five games against Tennessee when they’re ranked in the Top-10, with the last coming on Feb. 4, 1996, in Oxford against the No. 3 Lady Vols (78-72).
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE
Ole Miss has forced at least 14 turnovers in each of its last four games, as well as in 15 of 19 games played this season. The Rebels are very successful when forcing 15 or more turnovers, going 10-3 in such games this year.
In those 10 victories with at least 15 turnovers forced, Ole Miss is winning by an average of 19.7 PPG.
EARLY BIRD GETS THE WIN
Getting off to a good start has been crucial for the Rebels this season, going 10-1 overall when holding a halftime lead -- with the first loss with a halftime lead coming just this past Sunday at Florida.
When leading at the half, Ole Miss is beating opponents by an average of 19.1 PPG.
After opening the season on a historic 9-1 run, the Rebels have run into a brutal stretch of schedule against some of the toughest teams in the nation. Over the last nine games, the Rebels are 2-7, but that includes four ranked losses to No. 9 Oregon, No. 4 South Carolina, No. 3 Mississippi State and No. 11 Missouri. Combined, those nine opponents are 112-43 (.723), with those four ranked opponents a combined 71-8 (.899).
Four of the next five Rebel opponents own top-20 RPIs, an average national rank of 12 and a combined overall record of 68-10.
However, Ole Miss ranks in the top-105 in strength of schedule (54) and RPI (102), and both numbers are sure to continue increasing after games at No. 10 Tennessee (Jan. 25) and against No. 2 Mississippi State again at home on Jan. 28 to close the month.
LAST TIME OUT (at Florida)
Ole Miss fell in heartbreaking fashion at Florida, with the Gators knocking down a go-ahead layup with 27 seconds to play for the 61-60 win over the Rebels on Jan. 21.
The intensity was there right off the bat, with both teams battling to a 10-10 tie at the first media timeout. Ole Miss exploded for a 15-0 run in the midst of a 6:19 Florida scoring drought instigated by a stout Rebel defense - giving the Rebels their first SEC halftime lead of the season at 29-26.
The Rebels owned the middle quarters at a 32-25 edge, helped by an 11-3 run to open the third quarter. But the Gators turned on the jets in the fourth quarter, opening with a 17-0 run and holding the Rebels scoreless for 7:29 of the final frame.
Florida’s Haley Lorenzen (18 points, 13 rebounds) put back a missed three-pointer for the game-winning layup with 27 seconds to play. The Rebels had a chance with 8.1 seconds to play, but Alissa Alston’s layup was blocked by Lorenzen and picked up by the Gators for the win.
Four Rebels were in double-digits: Alston (17), Madinah Muhammad (12), Promise Taylor (12) and Shelby Gibson (10).
The silver lining to losing someone as valuable as Shandricka Sessom so early in the season is that plenty of Rebels are gaining valuable starting experience early in their careers. Of the 11 active Rebels on the roster, 10 have started a game for Ole Miss this season -- five of whom are underclassmen. Ole Miss has used nine different starting lineup combinations this season.
Ole Miss has been a dominant force in shot blocking this season, thanks primarily to freshman center Promise Taylor. The Rebels rank 33rd in the NCAA in blocks per game (5.0) and 31st in total blocks (95) -- 51 of which come from Taylor, who ranks 13th in total blocks and 16th in blocks per game (2.7). The Rebels have blocked at least five shots in nine games this year and at least four in 15 contests.
Because of the surge in blocked shots, the Rebels -- at 5.0 blocks per game -- are currently on pace for 145 total blocks by season’s end, potentially destroying the current single-season record of 129 set in 1982-83.
SHOWING UP IN THE CLUTCH
Ole Miss has come up clutch in games decided by 10 points or fewer, going 5-2 in such games. In those games, the Rebels are only shooting .276 from three and are being out-rebounded by nearly six boards a game (44.0-38.1), but are finding a way to stay ahead with a .400 shooting percentage (while holding opponents to just .374 overall).
Junior Alissa Alston is the Rebels’ top scorer in such games by far with 20.4 PPG, a .511 clip from the field and an .792 mark from the free throw line. Fellow junior Madinah Muhammad is second at 16.0 PPG with a blistering .898 mark from the charity stripe.
Last season, Ole Miss went 5-6 in 10-point games.
Freshman Promise Taylor was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season, making her the winningest freshman of the award in Ole Miss women’s basketball history.
Taylor has recorded two double-doubles this season and ranks as the SEC’s top freshman in shooting (fifth, .595).
ON PACE FOR GREATNESS
Freshman Promise Taylor is on pace to break the single-season blocks record. At her current pace of 2.7 per game, Taylor would have 78 total blocks by season’s end -- passing the previous record of 67 set by Shawn Goff in 2007-08.
MUHAMMAD CLOSING IN ON 1,000
Junior Madinah Muhammad is closing in on history after passing 900 career points following an 11-point outing vs. No. 11/12 Missouri on Jan. 18. Muhammad has exploded for 326 points through 19 games, giving her plenty of time to pass by her previous career single-season high of 365 set as a sophomore last year.
Muhammad is on pace to become one of the top scorers in Ole Miss history, currently on pace for 1,089 by the end of her junior season using her current 17.2 PPG average. If she does, she will become the 29th Rebel to ever eclipse the 1,000-point threshold. She would also become the second junior in as many seasons to pass the milestone (senior Shandricka Sessom did so in 2016-17), and the third in the last six seasons (Valencia McFarland, 2012-13).
GETTING THOSE MINUTES
They not only lead the Rebels in scoring, but juniors Madinah Muhammad and Alissa Alston have seen an extraordinary amount of court time in the past few games as well. The duo played 95 percent of all Rebel minutes in four games from Dec. 31 to Jan. 11 (170 total minutes), with Alston playing 167 minutes (98.2 percent) and Muhammad 156 minutes (91.8 percent).
Both rank in the top-three of minutes played in SEC play, with Muhammad ranking second with 39.0 and Alston third with 38.5.
Muhammad started the run with a 40-minute game vs. Texas Southern on Dec. 28, and has played no fewer than 37 minutes in a game since with marks of 40 vs. TSU, 40 at Arkansas, 38 vs. South Carolina, 41 vs. Florida in double-overtime, 37 at Mississippi State, 38 vs. Missouri and 40 at Florida.
Alston has been in the same boat, playing at least 38 minutes in five of her last six games, culminating with an absurd 49 minutes played against Florida.
Senior and Preseason Second-Team All-SEC member Shandricka Sessom tore her ACL during the closing minutes of the first quarter vs. Middle Tennessee on Nov. 29, ending her season. Sessom, who was averaging 17.7 PPG, will redshirt and return in 2018-19.
Sessom currently ranks as the 24th-best scorer in Ole Miss history with 1,131 career points scored.
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, vs. No. 4/5 South Carolina on Jan. 4, at No. 3/4 Mississippi State on Jan. 11 and vs. No. 11/12 Missouri on Jan. 18.
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
No. 9 Oregon (Dec. 17, L, 90-46)
Elite Eight, lost to UConn
Texas Southern (Dec. 28, W, 73-58)
1st Round, lost to Baylor
No. 3/4 South Carolina (Jan. 4, L, 88-62)
Defending NCAA Champions
No. 3/4 Mississippi State (Jan. 11, L, 76-45; Jan. 28)
Defending NCAA runners-up
No. 11/12 Missouri (Jan. 18, L, 67-48)
2nd Round, lost to Florida State
No. 10 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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