Feb. 2, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — After taking a 33-31 lead into halftime, Florida opened the second half on a 27-7 run, and Ole Miss did not have an answer, as the Gators went on to win 81-60 on Sunday at the Tad Smith Coliseum.
Florida shot 58.1 percent (18-of-31) from the field in the second half, including 5-of-12 from 3-point range. The Gators also held Ole Miss to 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point range.
“I told them at halftime, ‘Florida is going to come out and try to hit you in this first four minutes, and we have to hit back and win this first four (minutes).’ They came out and got after us, and we backed up,” head coach Matt Insell said.
“It was two different sets of emotions from Florida and their bench. Their players were talking defensively and offensively, and we got really quiet. I called a couple of timeouts to try to get us going there. It was just one of those nights for us.”
Junior forward Tia Faleru was a bright spot for the Rebels, as she recorded her SEC-leading 11th double-double of the season with a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds. It marked her seventh game with 20-plus points this season.
“I’m very happy with Tia,” Insell said. “Out of every player on our basketball team, Tia Faleru played for 37 minutes and gave me everything she had for 37 minutes. I’m very proud of her with her effort and her growth within this season. She’s getting better and better each every game. Tia practiced like that the last two days and she played well tonight. She played with a lot of energy and effort, and my plan is to go back and try to find some more that will have the same energy and effort that she has.”
“If I feel like we’re lacking energy, someone has to bring it, so I put my team on my back and did what I had to do to get some buckets or get a rebound, whatever I had to do,” Faleru said. “I was trying to spark some energy to get us back in the game.”
Faleru was one of two players in double figures for Rebels, joined by senior guard Diara Moore with 13 points. Senior guard Valencia McFarland picked up four fouls and finished with a season-low six points. It was just her fifth game with less than 10 points through 23 games this season.
“It wasn’t foul trouble,” said Insell of McFarland, who played just 10 minutes in the second half. “She plays with four fouls. Valencia and I will go back and she will watch the tape with me, and we’ll figure that out. Valencia will bounce back. She is a great player and will figure this out, bounce back and have a better game on Thursday.”
“Our team runs off Valencia,” Faleru said. “When she’s going, we’re going. When she’s not going, we’re not going, and then we have to find someone else. I tried to take on that role when Valencia couldn’t go as hard as she wanted to do. I had to pick up the slack, and the team had to pick up the slack, and we have to keep encouraging Valencia to do what she does best.”
Moving forward, Insell stressed energy and effort, as Ole Miss looks to fix the problems from Sunday’s loss to Florida and get better as a team ahead of Thursday night’s home matchup with Tennessee, a rematch from earlier this season in Knoxville, which the Lady Volunteers won 94-70.
“It was really frustrating because I felt like they were playing harder than us, and that hurts us,” Insell said. “Everything we do is based on energy and effort, and that’s why we’re in this games. We have to play with a lot of energy, effort, passion, poise and purpose.
“I’m very proud of Tia Faleru. She did everything I asked her to do, and others did not. We have to get everybody on the same page. If we’re going to be successful, it takes five on the court at the same time on the same page, and it takes six on the bench who are ready to go to come in and be on the same page as the ones on the court.”
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