Feb. 20, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss opened the second half on a 9-0 run to get within five, 38-33, with 15:53 left. The run started with defense, as the Rebels forced seven missed field goals and two turnovers.
No. 13/No. 16 Texas A&M called timeout and answered with a 10-2 run to stretch the lead back to double digits and went on to win, 73-61, on Thursday at the Tad Smith Coliseum.
Getting those stops and showing that fight in the second half, Insell said, are signs of progress and that they will get better from that second-half effort.
“It’s team that’s not ready to quit on a season,” he said. “We have had a lot of discussions about that. It’s easy for a team right now, and it’s been easy for them in the past. They have talked about that. Once you get down, there’s nothing really to play for. We have a lot to play for. We have to continue to get better.
“We have a program that’s in the middle of a process of remodeling. I say remodeling because we have a program that was one of the better programs in the country for many years. We’re remodeling that program, and we’re in a process of getting it back to where we want to get it to. Every day, we’re fighting to get it back to that area, and any improvement is improvement for us right now.”
Tia Faleru and Valenica McFarland led the way for the Rebels, with both scoring in double figures.
Faleru recorded her SEC-leading 14th double-double of the season, as she finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds. McFarland was one assist of her seventh double-double of the season, as she scored 12 points and dished out nine assists.
“She’s a player who next year, preseason-wise, could be on all those preseason watch lists and be up for preseason player of the year,” said Insell of Faleru. “Look at her numbers. She averaging 16-18 points a game and 9-11 rebounds a game There are not many players in the country doing that. She’s going to get better and better. She’s not even close to being where she has to be. She knows that and she is going to work every day to get there.
“Valencia McFarland is another one that continues every day to bring it. One thing I’m challenging Valenicia on right now is her defense. She has to get better defensively. Valencia is going to be in the pros next year, and they are going to expect her to guard. She has to get better, and my job over the next two weeks is to get her better defensively. That’s something that I’m going work really hard at. She’s a really good defensive player, but she has to start believing it and get tougher. When she does that, her game is going to go to another level.”
With the loss, Ole Miss drops to 10-17 overall, 1-12 in Southeastern Conference play, having lost seven straight since an 87-85 overtime win over Mississippi State on Jan. 23. Ole Miss looks to earn its second SEC win and snap that losing streak, as they travel to Starkville and play the same Mississippi State team on Sunday.
“Losing has to hurt,” said Insell of his message to the team after the loss. “That’s something that we got away from at this program. Losing has to hurt you so much that it drives you to win. That’s something that’s been lost in transition. That’s something I have been talking to them about. We’re losing right now. That has to hurt you. Before you can fix it, losing has to hurt you. For the first time in about a week or two, I saw a team that it hurt them because they worked hard and they put work in to win this game today. Every one of them.”
“There was a lot of emotion,” Faleru said. “It hurts, every loss. No one likes to lose. Going to Mississippi State, it’s always going to be a battle because it’s a rival. We have to come in tomorrow mad at the world, and when go into Mississippi State, we have to take all our aggression out on them.”
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