Feb. 6, 2018
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Ole Miss women’s basketball stares down another ranked matchup on the road this week when it travels to the Lone Star State for a showdown with No. 14 Texas A&M on Thursday night.
Ole Miss Rebels (11-12, 1-9 SEC)
Head Coach: Matt Insell • 5th Season at Ole Miss (69-80) • 69-80 career record (5th Season)
No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies (18-6, 7-3 SEC)
Head Coach: Gary Blair • 15th Season at TAMU (349-147) • 757-310 career record (34th season)
ON THE AIR
Television/Online: SEC Network + | Play-by-Play: Mike Wright; Color: Steve Miller
Radio: 105.1 / 105.5 FM | Play-by-Play: Graham Doty; Color: Lindsay Roy
Audio: RebelVision (OleMissSports.com)
SERIES NOTES (Texas A&M leads, 6-2)
At Oxford: A&M leads, 2-1
At College Station: A&M leads, 3-0
At Neutral Sites: Tied, 1-1
Longest UM Streak: 1 (1997-2012; 2017)
Longest A&M Streak: 5 (2013-2017)
Most UM Points: 82 (12/20/97 - at Anchorage)
Most A&M Points: 82 (2/21/13 - at College Station)
LAST TIME OUT (at Georgia)
Ole Miss got off to a great start and led No. 17 Georgia at halftime, but the Bulldogs stormed back for a 69-45 victory over the Rebels on Feb. 4.
Georgia, which was just named as one of the NCAA top-16 seeds in its latest seeding reveal at No. 12, shot 58.6 percent from the field in the back half to erase what was a strong first-half effort out of the Rebels.
Ole Miss jumped out to a 7-0 lead right out of the gates, holding the Bulldogs scoreless until the 7:26 mark of the first quarter. What followed was a tug-of-war that ended with a 15-15 tie after the first and a 30-28 Rebel lead at the half. In all, today’s game featured seven lead changes and seven ties.
The Rebels shot 52.2 percent in the first half while stifling the 17th-ranked Bulldogs to a 33 percent clip from the field and an 11 percent rate from three. Leading the way offensively for Ole Miss were Alissa Alston (18 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals) and Shelby Gibson (12 points, six rebounds, two steals), who scored a combined 24 points in the first half.
Georgia’s Caliya Robinson (18 points, three rebounds, three steals) and Mackenzie Engram (17 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists) scored a combined 35 points for the Bulldogs (20-3, 8-2 SEC).
VS. RANKED COMPETITION
Ole Miss takes on its eighth top-25 team of the season at No. 14 Texas A&M on Thursday evening. The previous ranked teams combine for a current average RPI of 13.0, an average national ranking of 8.0 and a combined record of 102-17 (.857).
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).
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: 38
The Rebels own the 38th toughest strength of schedule in the NCAA, with past opposition holding a .588 winning percentage (280-196) and future opposition holding a 88-47 record (.652).
Ole Miss has been a dominant force in shot blocking this season, thanks primarily to freshman center Promise Taylor. The Rebels rank 37th in the NCAA in blocks per game (4.7) and 34th in total blocks (109) -- 61 of which come from Taylor, who ranks 16th in total blocks and 17th in blocks per game (2.7). The Rebels have blocked at least five shots in 10 games this year and at least four in 16 contests.
Because of the surge in blocked shots, the Rebels -- at 4.7 blocks per game -- are currently on pace for 137 total blocks by season’s end, potentially breaking the current single-season record of 129 set in 1982-83.
REBELS MAKING ALL-SEC PUSH
Rebel juniors Alissa Alston and Madinah Muhammad, as well as freshman Promise Taylor, have put together strong resumes for potential postseason honors.
#25 Alissa Alston • PG • Junior
• 15.2 PPG (14th SEC); 14.6 PPG in SEC play
• 4.3 Assists/Game (7th SEC)
• 1.4 Assist/Turnover Ratio (11th SEC)
• 34.9 Minutes/Game (4th SEC)
• 15 double-digit games
• Five 20-point games; career-high 28 vs. Vanderbilt
• Has had at least four assists in 12 games
• Has scored in double digits with at least five assists in five games
• Career-high 10 assists vs. Delaware State
• Career-long eight-game double-digit streak from Dec. 9 to Jan. 7
• 635 career points (320 this season)
#55 Promise Taylor • F • Freshman
• Three-time SEC Freshman of the Week
• 9.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG
• NCAA and SEC’s top-ranked freshman in shooting percentage (.613)
• Leads SEC in shooting in conference play (.661)
• SEC’s top-ranked freshman in blocks (2.7/game); 17th nationally
• On pace to break single-season record with 77 blocks by the end of the regular season; has 61, record is 67 set by Shawn Goff in 2007-08
• .613 shooting percentage would rank as the Ole Miss single-season school record if the season ended today, bypassing Eugenia Conner’s .604 from 1983
• Three double-doubles
• Has at least three blocks in 12 games and at least four blocks in six games this year
#20 Madinah Muhammad • G • Junior
• 17.3 PPG (7th SEC); 16.6 PPG in SEC play
• .847 FT% (3rd SEC); would rank fourth in single-season history if season ended today
• 54 threes made (2.5/game, 2nd SEC)
• 33.8 minutes/game (6th SEC); 37.2 in SEC play
• Has scored in double-digits in 19 of 22 games played
• Scored 20-plus seven times
• Has scored 30-plus twice (Ole Miss hadn’t had a 30-point game since 2015-16 entering the season)
• Had career-long 10-game double-digit streak from Dec. 19 to Jan. 28
• Has played at least 37 minutes in eight SEC games, including 40 in three games
• 972 career points
• Seven threes at No. 10 Tennessee ranks tied for third most in a single game in Ole Miss history; most ever by a Rebel vs. Tennessee
• Seven threes at Tennessee ranks tied for the most in a single game in the SEC this year and leads in conference play
• Has had seven assists in four games this year; has 61 total this year, a single-season career high
• Has only missed multiple free throws in a game twice this season
• Has made five or more free throws seven times this season (season-high 12 vs. Troy)
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE
Ole Miss has forced double-digit turnovers in each of its last seven games, as well as in 21 of 23 games played this season. The Rebels have seen success when forcing 15 or more turnovers, going 10-5 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.
Ole Miss has forced at least 14 turnovers in seven of its last eight games played.
EARLY BIRD GETS THE WIN
Getting off to a good start has been crucial for the Rebels this season, going 10-2 overall when holding a halftime lead.
When leading at the half and ending up winning the game, Ole Miss is beating opponents by an average of 19.1 PPG.
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 -- including five underclassmen. Ole Miss has used 10 different starting lineup combinations this season, with the most frequent one being Alissa Alston, Madinah Muhammad, Chyna Nixon, Bree Glover and Shelby Gibson.
ALSTON COMING THROUGH
Junior Alissa Alston has proven herself a skilled scorer during her third season as a Rebel, and has become a crucial component to the Ole Miss offense as both the field marshall at point guard and off the dribble.
Alston is coming off a career-high 28-point outing vs. Vanderbilt on Feb. 1, her fifth 20-point game of the season after not recording any during her first two seasons at Ole Miss. She has scored at least 17 points in four of her last five games played after entering the 2017-18 season with a career-high of only 17 points prior.
Alston has been in double digits in 15 games played this season, shooting 43.9 from the field and 77.5 from the charity stripe. She has had at least three games where she’s started at least 8-of-8 from the free throw line, including a 14-of-16 line vs. Middle Tennessee to help lead the Rebels to the national TV win over the Blue Raiders.
SERIOUS PLAYING TIME
Junior Alissa Alston has logged at least 38 minutes in eight of her last 10 games, resulting in her playing for 89 percent of all available floor time in that span (365 of 410 available minutes). When taking out 26 minutes vs. Mizzou and 16 vs. MSU due to foul trouble, that percentage goes up to 97.8 (323 of 330).
Alston ranks fourth overall in the SEC with 34.9 minutes played, as well as fifth in conference-only games with 36.5 per game.
Freshman Promise Taylor was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season on Jan. 23, making her the winningest freshman of the award in Ole Miss women’s basketball history.
Taylor has recorded three double-doubles this season and ranks as the NCAA’s top freshman in shooting percentage (.613), while also leading the SEC in conference-only shooting at .661.
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 77 total blocks by season’s end -- passing the previous record of 67 set by Shawn Goff in 2007-08.
VALUABLE EXPERIENCE FOR CHYNA
Freshman Chyna Nixon has started in 17 games her first season in place of the injured Shandricka Sessom, giving her a leg up moving forward in her Rebel career. Nixon has started to see more floor time as well, playing in at least 30 minutes in each of her last three games after only playing high of 22 prior.
Junior Torri Lewis is no stranger to the three-point shot, but she’s had a newcomer join her in the three-point assault this season: sophomore center Shelby Gibson.
Of Lewis’ 31 field goals this year, 28 are from three -- which includes eight games with multiple treys. Gibson, who entered the season with a career line of 7-of-14 from three after her freshman season, has gone off for a line of 18-of-47 this year -- with 30 of her attempts coming in the last nine games.
MUHAMMAD CLOSING IN ON 1,000
Junior Madinah Muhammad is closing in on history with 972 points in her Rebel career. Muhammad has exploded for 381 points through 22 games, a new single-season career-high.
Muhammad is on pace to become one of the top scorers in Ole Miss history, currently on pace for 1,075 by the end of her junior season using her current 17.3 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).
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.
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 South Carolina (Jan. 4, L, 88-62)
Defending NCAA Champions
No. 3 Mississippi State (Jan. 11, L, 76-45; L, 69-49)
Defending NCAA runners-up
No. 11 Missouri (Jan. 18, L, 67-48)
2nd Round, lost to Florida State
No. 10 Tennessee (Jan. 25, L, 75-66)
2nd Round, lost to Louisville
No. 14 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.