Nov. 26, 2013
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
Ole Miss improved to .500 behind season-high points from senior guard Valencia McFarland and sophomore guard Gracie Frizzell, as the Rebels held off Louisiana-Monroe 78-72 Tuesday night.
It capped a three-game, five-day stretch during which Ole Miss (4-4) went 3-0 with wins over Southeastern Louisiana, Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe.
"We dug deep,” head coach Matt Insell said. “This is a big win for our basketball team, for our confidence and toughness. This win will win us a lot more basketball games.”
McFarland recorded her first double-double of the season, the third of her career, finishing with season highs of 23 points and 10 assists in a season-high 36 minutes. It was her third straight game of 20+ points, as she scored 19 of her 23 points in the second half.
“I told the team when we got back from Hawaii that we needed to win three out of three games, and they did that,” Insell said. “A big reason we did that was Valencia McFarland. She took over that basketball game in the second half, and she has done that these last three games. She has stepped up in leading our basketball team, and I couldn’t be more proud of a player than I am her.”
"Coach Matt told me to calm down,” McFarland said. “During the first half, he tried to get me to calm down a lot. In the second half, I calmed down and finished around the rim and got some easy baskets.”
McFarland committed just three turnovers, and the team had just nine in the game, while they scored 24 points off 22 turnovers.
“The way we play and as fast as we play offensively, we’re going to have some turnovers,” Insell said. “I tell them every game, if we can keep under 13-14 turnovers, and we can force the other team into 22-24 turnovers, that will be an advantage for us. We did that tonight, and in the third game in five days.”
The Rebels also got a lift from Frizzell who scored a season-high 17 points, including four 3-pointers, in 38 minutes. She got the start in place of junior forward Danielle McCray who was held out of the game with a back injury. Insell said McCray will be back and ready to go for Saturday’s game at Tulane.
“The way she’s playing right now the last couple of games, more relaxed and making shots, that’s the way I thought she was going to play from the start,” Insell said. “She had some shooting woes early in the year, and I told her to keep shooting. She’s a shooter; that’s what she does. And she has finally found her a rhythm a little bit and slowed down. She had a big game today, but she’s going to have a big one where she makes seven or eight threes, and I feel that coming on for her.”
“We had a player out in Danielle McCray, and some of the girls had to step up, and some girls had to play out of position,” Frizzell said. “We stepped up to the challenge.”
Junior forward Tia Faleru and senior forward Kenyotta Jenkins both battled foul trouble and each picked up four fouls. Faleru finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in just 23 minutes, while Jenkins finished with six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. In their place, it was an opportunity for freshman Shequila Joseph who responded with nine points and six assists in 24 minutes.
“I told them to find a way to win,” Insell said. “Tia and Kenyotta have been playing well for us. I was very happy that Shequila Joseph got back going today. She had been struggling a lot. We talked a lot this morning about finding ways to get her back going. She looked more comfortable out there today, which helped us when we got in foul trouble.
“Tia and Kenyotta did a great job handling that and pushing through. Tia Faleru’s minutes were down, but when you look at her stat line, if she plays her normal 28-29 minutes, she probably has another double-double.”
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