Rebels Return from Break Against Texas Southern


OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss returns from the holidays with another reigning NCAA Tournament team awaiting them, with Texas Southern making a stop at The Pavilion on Thursday afternoon. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

TEAM FACTS

Ole Miss Rebels (9-3, 0-0 SEC)
Head Coach: Matt Insell • 5th Season at Ole Miss (67-71) • 67-71 career record (5th Season)

Texas Southern Lady Tigers (5-5, 0-0 SWAC)
Head Coach: Johnetta Hayes-Perry • 4th Season at TSU (81-46) • 125-67 career record (6th 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)

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TEAM NOTES

STREAK SNAPPED
The Rebels were in the throes of a seven-game winning streak and off to the best start at Ole Miss since 2000-01 at 9-1 before an 0-2 trip to the West Coast in tough contests against No. 9 Oregon (90-46) and Portland State (94-79).

During the streak, the Rebels were topping opponents by an average of 17.4 points per game and included victories 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), South Alabama (66-59) and Southern Miss (68-59).

Ole Miss held opponents to 60.1 points per game throughout the streak (with just one opponent breaking 60; Troy, 93), and shot .439 while holding opponents to .320 from the field and a paltry .268 from beyond the arc.

LAST TIME OUT
at No. 9 Oregon (L, 90-46)

No. 9 Oregon showed why it is one of the nation's premier teams after proving a difficult task for the Rebels on a 90-46 loss on Dec. 17.

Ole Miss was able to hold 2017 Elite Eight team Oregon (9-2) to a low 5-of-23 (.217) clip from the three-point line -- a considerable feat considering the Ducks entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in three-point shooting at .436 -- but the Ducks were in control the whole game, scoring 58 of their 90 points in the paint to offset their perimeter game.

The Rebels received double-digit performances out of juniors Barbara Johnson (11 points, career high) and Alissa Alston (10 points), but Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu put on a historic outing. After breaking the all-time freshman NCAA record for triple-doubles last year, Ionescu tied the all-time NCAA record with her seventh after a 21 point, 14 assist and 11 rebound outing.

at Portland State (L, 94-79)
Ole Miss nearly wiped away a 27-point deficit during an exciting six-minute stretch of the third quarter, but an impressive first half showing out of Portland State proved too much to overcome as the Rebels fell, 94-79, on Dec. 19.

The Rebels (9-3) fell behind early to the Vikings (6-5), with the score standing at 22-9 after the first quarter of play. Portland State kept the gas down to a 46-28 lead at the half, but the Rebels came out swinging in the third quarter and made things interesting right up until the final minutes of play.

Alissa Alston recorded her fourth 20-point game of the season with 21 and seven assists, and Madinah Muhammad recorded her 10 double-digit game at 19 points.

FEARSOME DEFENSE
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 eight of its 12 opponents under 40 percent shooting, going 8-0 in such games. Just one Rebel opponent has eclipsed 50 percent shooting for a game (No. 9 Oregon, 50.0), whereas Ole Miss has done so three times (going 3-0 in those games). Furthermore, the Rebels have held seven of their 12 opponents to under 30 percent three-point shooting.

Ole Miss has also held opponents to under 60 points seven times this season, including five games in a row from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12 -- the longest-such streak since holding five straight opponents to under 60 in 2015 from Nov. 7 until Dec. 12.

Ole Miss ranks 12th nationally in blocks per game (5.8) and fourth in the SEC in three-point defense (.284).

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 74.9 points per game -- the fifth-best average in the SEC -- which includes 78.9 PPG in wins.

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 visited the charity stripe an impressive 164 times in the following six 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.

At the moment, Ole Miss ranks as one of the top free-throw teams in the NCAA, sitting 13th nationally in attempts (278) and 34th in free throws made (181).

BLOCK PARTY
Ole Miss has been a dominant force in shot blocking this season, thanks primarily to freshman center Promise Taylor. The Rebels rank 12th in the NCAA in blocks per game (5.8) and 14th in total blocks (70) -- 36 of which come from Taylor, who ranks sixth in both total blocks and ninth in blocks per game (3.0). The Rebels have blocked at least five shots in all but but three games this season and have swatted seven or more on five different occasions.

Because of the surge in blocked shots, the Rebels -- at 6.1 blocks per game -- are currently on pace for 174 total blocks by season's end, potentially destroying the current single-season record of 129 set in 1982-83.

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.

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INDIVIDUAL NOTES

#SplashSisters, PART DEUX?
With one half of the #SplashSisters, senior guard Shandricka Sessom, out for the season due to a torn ACL, it's been junior point guard Alissa Alston that has picked up the slack and formed a formidable duo with fellow junior Madinah Muhammad.

At the time of her injury, both Sessom and Muhammad were scoring a combined 38.2 points per game -- 45.7 percent of all Rebel scoring at that point. Since that game vs. Middle Tennessee, Alston has given Ole Miss a boost with 17.7 PPG in those six games -- including a career-high 27 points vs. South Alabama and additional 20-point outings vs. Middle Tennessee (22) and at Portland State (21).

Since Sessom's injury, both Alston and Muhammad have combined for 34.2 PPG and are shooting a combined .391 from the field and .811 from the free throw line for 67 total free throws.

SLICE AND DICE
Junior point guard Alissa Alston has begun to shore up her scoring bonafides as a legitimate threat off the dribble this season. Alston has eclipsed the 20-point mark four times, including 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), 22 points on national TV in a win vs. Middle Tennessee on Nov. 29 and a 21-point outing at Portland State.

She hasn't given up on her bread-and-butter, though, leading Ole Miss and ranking fifth in the SEC with 5.0 assists per game. In her career, she has scored in double-digits and had at least five assists seven times -- including thrice 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 174 assists (2.6/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.

Muhammad currently ranks fifth in the SEC at 18.5 points per game and has only been held under double-digit twice in 12 games played this year. Additionally, Muhammad has scored at least 19 points seven times this season, she has eclipsed 20 five times and she recorded the first 30-point game at Ole Miss since 2015 with a career-high 30 vs. Arkansas State.

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.

SETTING MILESTONES
Madinah Muhammad is on pace to be one of the top scorers by the end of her Ole Miss career. The Chicago native just recently passed 800 career points, currently sitting at 813 and a career average of 11.6 PPG. At her current season pace of 18.5 points per game, Muhammad is on pace to reach 1,146 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).

MARLEE TO THE RESCUE
Junior Marlee Hatcher helped spark a comeback effort for the Rebels at Portland State in her most significant playing time of the season with 16 minutes played against the Vikings. Hatcher nailed threes on back-to-back possessions, initiating a 24-4 Rebel run that nearly erased what was once a 27-point deficit. Hatcher was a sharp shooter at Itawamba Community College, shooting 41 percent from three and leading her team to the national tournament. Hatcher's mother, Wanda Austin, played at Ole Miss from 1978-81 and was a team captain.

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 12 games at center -- the only Rebel this year to play and start in all 12 games.

Taylor has been dominant on both ends of the floor, currently ranking ninth nationally in blocks per game (3.0) and seventh in the SEC in shooting percentage (.582).

ON PACE FOR GREATNESS
Freshman Promise Taylor is on pace to annihilate the single-season blocks record. At her current pace of 3.1 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.

HEARTBREAKING LOSS
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, before losing at No. 9 Oregon on Dec. 17. This Thursday's tilt vs. Texas Southern is the final of the non-conference NCAA teams before a grueling SEC schedule that features eight Tournament teams.

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

Oregon (Dec. 17, L, 90-46)
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; Jan. 28)
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.

 

 

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