OXFORD, Miss. --
The Last Meeting
December 12, 2015
Ole Miss Drops Road Contest at Southern Miss
The Ole Miss women's basketball team saw its four-game winning streak snapped with a 57-38 road loss at Southern Miss. Shandricka Sessom (Byhalia, Miss.) led all scorers with 20 points for her 10th straight game in double figures dating back to last season, while Bretta Hart (Poplarville, Miss.) led the way on the glass with seven rebounds.
Ole Miss will hold its annual Kids School Day game on Tuesday morning, with the Rebels and the Southern Miss Lady Eagles tipping off at 11 a.m. CT inside The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
Ole Miss Rebels (8-1, 0-0 SEC)
Head Coach: Matt Insell 5th Season at Ole Miss (66-69) 66-69 career record (5th Season)
Southern Miss Lady Eagles (6-2, 0-0 Conference USA)
Head Coach: Joye Lee-McNelis 14th Season at Southern Miss (215-195) 444-351 career record (26th season)
ON THE AIR
Television/Online: SEC Network + | Play-by-Play: Seth Austin; Color: Lindsay Roy
Radio: 105.1 / 105.5 FM | Play-by-Play: Graham Doty
Audio: RebelVision (OleMissSports.com)
REBS ON FIRE
Ole Miss has bounced back from a tough loss to Saint Louis on a neutral court at DePaul's Maggie Dixon Classic on Nov. 17 with an impressive six-game winning streak, that 79-64 loss to the Billikens remaining as the lone blemish on a strong 8-1 Rebel resume thus far. The streak is the longest since Matt Insell's first Rebel sqaud won seven in a row in 2013-14.
During their winning streak, the Rebels are winning by an average of 18.8 points per game, which include wins over Delaware State (110-58, third-largest point total in Ole Miss history), reigning NCAA Tournament teams Troy (96-93) and Temple (64-48, on the road), perennial postseason player Middle Tennessee (65-56, on national TV), Arkansas State (74-48) and, most recently, South Alabama (66-59).
LAST TIME OUT
Ole Miss had to shake off some cobwebs accumulated during finals week, but junior point guard Alissa Alston put the team on her back and helped lead the Rebels to a narrow 66-59 win over upstart South Alabama on Dec. 9.
The Rebels improved to 8-1 for the first time since 2005-06 in the win, which came right down to the wire. Up 62-59 with just 11 seconds to play, a Jaguar layup that barely missed fell into the hands of Alston, who went coast-to-coast for a layup to put the game out of reach. Alston ended with 27 points, a new career high and the third 20-point game for the junior this season.
It was a tough defensive battle, as Ole Miss was held to under 40 percent shooting for just the second time this season.
FIRST RPI: OLE MISS RANKS #44
After playing a tough non-conference schedule through eight games this year, Ole Miss earned a ranking of No. 44 in the initial RPI report released by the NCAA this week. Ole Miss currently ranks No. 49 in the NCAA RPI, and are also receiving four votes in the latest USA Today/WBCA Coaches Poll from Dec. 5.
OUT OF THE BLOCKS
Fast starts have been a hallmark of head coach Matt Insell's Rebel squads, and the 2017-18 team has been no different. However, this year's squad is off to the best start since 2005-06 at 8-1 -- which is also the last time a Rebel team went 9-1.
Ole Miss is currently one of 19 teams nationally to be 8-1 or better through at least nine games played.
The Rebel defense has proved difficult to maneuver in the opening stages of the 2017-18 season, stifling opponents from the field. Ole Miss has held seven of its nine opponents under 36 percent shooting, going 7-0 in such games. No Rebel opponent has eclipsed 50 percent shooting for a game, whereas Ole Miss has done so three times (going 3-0 in those games). Furthermore, the Rebels have held five of their nine opponents to under 30 percent three-point shooting.
Ole Miss ranks as one of the top defenses nationally, sitting 11th in the NCAA in blocks per game (6.2) and 12th in opponent field goal percentage (.336).
THE BEST DEFENSE...
...is a good offense, and the Rebels possess a potent one -- even without senior and Preseason Second-Team All-SEC member Shandricka Sessom. Ole Miss currently averages 78.4 points per game -- the fourth-best average in the SEC and 39th-best in the NCAA at the moment -- which includes 80.2 PPG in wins.
Furthermore, Ole Miss has a scoring margin of 17.6 PPG -- an average that increases to 21.6 in wins this year. That 17.6 margin ranks fifth-best in the SEC and 34th best in the nation.
Junior guard Madinah Muhammad has accounted for 25.8 percent of all Rebel scoring by herself, and that number increases at home (26.9).
CRASH THE BOARDS
Ole Miss has had a recent rebounding renaissance, starting with the second-half surge to lift the Rebels to a big road win at NCAA Tournament team Temple on Nov. 25. The Rebels rank third in the SEC in overall rebounding (42.9/game) and fifth in defensive rebounds (28.2/game).
Ole Miss has had at least three individuals with at least five rebounds in seven of nine games played.
The Rebels have been money from the field in the opening eight games of this season, shooting the fifth-best clip in the SEC and 34th-best in the nation at .455. Helping that is an impressive 17 quarters (out of 36 total) where the Rebels are shooting 50 percent or better.
HIGH-FLYIN' REB OFFENSE
The fast-paced Rebel offense has been difficult to slow down in the opening stages of the season, and it shows in where Ole Miss ranks in the SEC and nationally in some offensive categories:
Scoring - 78.4 PPG (4th SEC, 39th NCAA)
Margin - +17.6 (5th SEC, 34th NCAA)
FG% - .455 (5th SEC, 34th NCAA)
FT Attempts - 203 (34th NCAA)
FT Made - 138 (37th NCAA)
GETTING TO THE LINE
After only being able to get to the line a total of 66 times in the first four games of the season, the Rebels have visited the charity stripe an impressive 137 times in the following five games. The recent surge in trips to the free throw line began with 37 against Troy on Nov. 21 -- the most since Ole Miss attempted 38 vs. Florida on Jan. 8, 2015. The Rebels also sank 29 of those 37 free throw attempts, the most conversions since hitting 25 that same game vs. Florida in 2014-15. Madinah Muhammad was 12-of-13 from the line in that game alone, the most in a game in the SEC this year and the most by a Rebel since Alissa Alston sank 12 vs. Auburn on Feb. 16, 2017.
The Rebels followed that up with a crucial game on the free throw line vs. Middle Tennessee, going 26-of-31. Much of that came from Alston, who went 14-of-16 -- the most makes since Tia Faleru hit 15 at Missouri on Feb. 15, 2015. Alston was just two shy of the single-game record set by Armintie Price at UAB in 2006-07.
Ole Miss has been a dominant force in shot blocking this season, thanks primarily to freshman center Promise Taylor. The Rebels rank 11th in blocks per game (6.2) and 12th in total blocks (56), 27 of which come from Taylor, who ranks eighth in both total blocks and blocks per game (3.0). The Rebels have blocked at least seven shots in a game four times this year.
Because of the surge in blocked shots, the Rebels -- at 6.2 blocks per game -- are currently on pace for 186 total blocks by season's end, destroying the current single-season record of 129 set in 1982-83.
FROM DOWNTOWN ... YES!
The Rebels have been on fire from three in the early part of this season, as they currently draining 6.4 treys per game (58 total). Eight different Rebels have drained threes this season, with 51 of those threes alone coming from Madinah Muhammad (25), Shandricka Sessom (15) and Torri Lewis (11). At their current pace of 6.4 threes per game, the Rebels are on pace to come near the single-season record for threes in a season with 192, which would rank as the third-most in school history behind the 2009-10 record of 233 and the 1999-00 runner-up mark of 203.
RECORDS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN
Ole Miss put on a dazzling offensive spectacle against Delaware State on Nov. 18, putting up the third-most points in a game ever while re-writing several other records in the process. The Rebels held a 64-19 advantage at halftime, the largest scoring margin in any half in school history (+45) and the second-most points scored in any half. Ole Miss was also tied for the ninth-largest win margin at +52 at the 110-58 final.
FATHER AND SON
The student became the teacher vs. Middle Tennessee on national TV on Nov. 29, with Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell earning his first-career victory over his father, MTSU head coach Rick Insell, in his fourth try. The duo constituted the first-ever meeting between a father and son in NCAA Division I history on Nov. 23, 2014 in Oxford. The elder Insell holds a 3-1 advantage in the series, taking the first contest, 71-65, before winning in the third round of the WNIT later that season, 82-70, and taking the return trip of the home-and-home in the opening months of the 2015-16 season, 84-75, in Murfreesboro.
SLICE AND DICE
Junior point guard Alissa Alston knows how to distribute to the many scorers Ole Miss possesses, but this season she's beginning to shore up her scoring bonafides as a legitimate threat off the dribble. Alston has eclipsed the 20-point mark three times this season, most recently leading the way vs. South Alabama with a career-high 27 points on a near-perfect 10-of-11 shooting day from the field.
Alston also owns a 26-point performance vs. Troy on Nov. 21 (then a career-high) and 22 points on national TV in a win vs. Middle Tennessee on Nov. 29.
She hasn't given up on her bread-and-butter, though, leading Ole Miss and ranking fourth in the SEC with 5.3 assists per game. In her career, she has scored in double-digits and had at least five assists six times -- including twice this season.
Alston has a career-high 10 assists to her credit this year as well in the Rebels' record-breaking victory vs. Delaware State on Nov. 18. In her career, Alston has 161 assists (2.5/game).
OH MY, SHE'S ON FIRE
Junior guard Madinah Muhammad has barely had a cold moment on the floor this season on the way to an incredible start as the top scorer for the Rebels through nine games.
Muhammad currently ranks second in the SEC and 35th nationally at 20.2 points per game -- an impressive feat despite going scoreless in an eight minute outing at Temple on Nov. 25 while nursing an injury. Entering that game, she was the conference's top scorer at 24.6 PPG.
Other than that game, Muhammad has been unable to be held under 13 points scored, and has set new career-highs three separate times. She opened the season with five straight games in double-digits, the second streak in her career of at least five in a row (her career-long streak is six from Jan. 22 to Feb. 12 last season). Muhammad also scored three straight games with at least 20 points for the first time in her Rebel career during that time.
Madinah Muhammad is on pace to be one of the top scorers by the end of her Ole Miss career. The Chicago native just passed 700 career points scored, sitting now at 773 points. At her current season pace of 20.2 points per game, Muhammad is on pace to reach 1,197 by season's end -- putting her well within the realm of becoming the 29th Rebel to score 1,000 points in a career. If she does, she will become the second junior in as many years to do so (senior Shandricka Sessom did so in 2016-17), and the third in the last six seasons (Valencia McFarland, 2012-13).
DON'T STOP ME NOW
Madinah Muhammad did something no Rebel had done in two seasons against Arkansas State on Dec. 2, dropping 30 points on the Red Wolves for a new career high and the first Ole Miss 30-point game since current junior Torri Lewis lit the net on fire for 36 points on 10 threes vs. New Orleans as a freshman on Dec. 14, 2015.
THE KID CAN PLAY
True freshman Promise Taylor has wasted no time in cementing herself as a valuable piece of the Rebel puzzle this season. Taylor has earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice this year and has started all nine games at center.
Taylor has been dominant on both ends of the floor, currently ranking as the top freshman nationally in shooting percentage (.630; 3rd SEC, 15th NCAA). Taylor also leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally in blocks with 3.3 per game.
ON PACE FOR GREATNESS
Freshman Promise Taylor is on pace to annihilate the single-season blocks record,. At her current pace of 3.0 per game, Taylor would have 90 total blocks by season's end -- dismantling the previous record of 67 set by Shawn Goff in 2007-08.
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 Wednesday, ending her season. Sessom, who was averaging 17.7 PPG entering Wednesday, 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. The Rebels came out victorious against the first, Troy (96-93), and won at Temple, 64-48. Next up for Ole Miss is a trip out West to No. 9 Oregon, who advanced to the Elite Eight in 2017 after the Rebels defeated them in Oxford during non-conference play.
Troy (Nov. 21, W, 96-93)
1st Round, lost to runner-up Mississippi State
Temple (Nov. 25, W, 64-48)
1st Round, lost to Oregon
Oregon (Dec. 17, in Eugene)
Elite Eight, lost to UConn
Texas Southern (Dec. 28, at home)
1st Round, lost to Baylor
South Carolina (Jan. 4, at home)
Defending NCAA Champions
Mississippi State (Jan. 11 away; Jan. 28 home)
Defending NCAA runners-up
Missouri (Jan. 18, at home)
2nd Round, lost to Florida State
Tennessee (Jan. 25, in Knoxville)
2nd Round, lost to Louisville
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.