Nov. 24, 2013
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
For the second time in this three-game, five-day stretch, a strong second half lifted Ole Miss to victory, as the Rebels defeated Tennessee State 77-61 Sunday afternoon. After taking a 31-29 lead into halftime, the Rebels came out on a 9-3 run and outscored the Tigers 46-32 in the second half.
“I’ll start out by saying, I’m not going to coach in the first half anymore,” head coach Matt Insell quipped. “I’m just going to sit there on the bench. We seem to be a really good second-half team. I took total blame for it halftime. I told them it’s part of my process, too. I need to sit there and be quiet the whole first half and let it be and know they’re going to pull through in the second half.”
Insell credited their conditioning and tempo for the second-half surge, as the Rebels had 21 points off turnovers and 27 fast-break points, with 15 of the 21 points off turnovers in the second half. Senior guard Valencia McFarland and junior forward Tia Faleru also had big second halves with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
“A lot of it has to do with our energy, and us pushing the ball back at people in transition, and eventually the other team gets tired, too,” Insell said. “We have to be in incredible shape to play the way we want to play.”
“We keep running it back at them, and teams get tired and we start getting lay-ups and transition buckets in the second half that we don’t get in the first half. That’s part of who we are and our makeup.”
Defensively, Ole Miss held Tennessee State to just 32.8 percent shooting, the Rebels’ second straight game holding opponents under 40 percent shooting and their second-lowest opponents’ field-goal percentage this season.
“We’re trying to force a lot of outside shots,” Insell said. “During our four-game losing streak, we were giving up a lot of layups. We’re not giving up those layups anymore, so you see teams’ shooting percentages go down. The last two games, we have forced them to shoot outside, rushed shots.”
McFarland finished with a season-high 22 points and eight assists. She was 7-for-16 from the field and was 7-for-9 from the free-throw line. It was her second-straight 20-point game, the 15th of her career.
“I’m very happy with Valencia,” Insell said. “I have asked her to step her scoring total up, and she has done that. And she is showing a bigger leadership role on this basketball team. If she will give me 22 points and eight assists every game, I will be really happy, and we will win a lot of ball games. I’m very happy with Valencia and wished I had her for another three years.”
Faleru was second on the team with. 19 points and eight rebounds, two boards shy of her second straight double-double. She was also 9-for-10 from the free-thorw line.
Senior guard Diara Moore chipped in 15 points, while junior forward Danielle McCray finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in her second start of the season after scoring a season-high 12 points in her first start of the season Friday.
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