Rebels Open SEC Play at Arkansas


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- After wrapping up another successful non-conference season at 10-3 overall, Ole Miss women's basketball now sets its sights on Arkansas to open SEC play in a New Year's Eve showdown at Bud Walton Arena on Sunday.

TEAM FACTS

Ole Miss Rebels (10-3, 0-0 SEC)
Head Coach: Matt Insell • 5th Season at Ole Miss (68-71) • 68-71 career record (5th Season)

Arkansas Razorbacks (9-4, 0-0 SEC)
Head Coach: Mike Neighbors • 1st Season at Arkansas (9-4) • 107-45 career record (5th season)

ON THE AIR

Television/Online: SEC Network + / WatchESPN/ESPN3 | Play-by-Play: Bret Dolan
Radio: 105.1 / 105.5 FM | Play-by-Play: Graham Doty; Color: Lindsay Roy
Audio: RebelVision (OleMissSports.com)

The Last Meeting
Arkansas64
Ole Miss73
January 1, 2017
Oxford, Miss.
Rebels Run Past Razorbacks in SEC Opener
The Ole Miss women's basketball team tallied two double-doubles and outscored Arkansas 30-15 in the third quarter to open SEC play with a victory at The Pavilion.

SERIES NOTES

Series History: Ole Miss leads, 26-16
At Oxford: Ole Miss leads 15-3
At Fayetteville: Arkansas leads 11-5
At Neutral Sites: Ole Miss leads 5-3
Longest UM Streak: 8 (2004-2010)
Longest UA Streak: 6 (2011-2014)
Biggest UM Win: 35 (1/6/02 - at Oxford)
Biggest UA Win: 41 (3/3/13 - at Fayettville)
Most UM Points: 94 (3/2/06 - at Little Rock)
Most UA Points: 93 (3/3/13 - at Fayetteville)
Last 10 Meetings: Arkansas leads 7-3

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TEAM NOTES

IT'S GO-TIME
After completing the non-conference season at 10-3, Ole Miss women's basketball stares down a grueling SEC slate with the conference opener at Arkansas.

The SEC sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and ended with the two in the title game: defending national champions South Carolina and reigning NCAA runners-up Mississippi State.

In the non-conference season, the SEC went 132-39 (.772) overall -- the 13th-best conference winning percentage since 1990-91 and the 28th season in a row that the conference has won at least 70 percent of its non-conference games.

REBELS IN SEC OPENERS
Ole Miss is looking for its fourth-straight SEC opening win, but a win on Sunday in Fayetteville would be the first SEC road-opening victory for the Rebels since the 2006-07 Elite Eight team beat Auburn, 74-66, on Jan. 4, 2007.

All-time, the Rebels are 24-14 overall in general SEC openers (16-7 at home; 8-7 on the road). In home SEC openers, Ole Miss is 28-10 all-time, and on the road the Rebels are 14-23 in SEC openers.

VS. ARKANSAS
The Rebels lead the all-time series vs. Arkansas, 26-16, but the Razorbacks have taken seven of the last 10 contests against Ole Miss. In Fayetteville, the Razorbacks hold an 11-5 advantage.

The 10-game Ole Miss lead is tied for the second-largest against SEC opponents with a 34-24 lead against Alabama, falling short only of the 33-game lead the Rebels hold over Mississippi State (63-30).

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL NON-CON
Ole Miss finished the non-conference season at 10-3, the fifth year in all five of the Matt Insell era to feature at least nine non-conference wins and the third to record at least 10 wins.

The Rebels have beaten three teams currently in the NCAA RPI Top-150: South Alabama (91), Middle Tennessee (110) and Temple (139). At the moment, Ole Miss ranks No. 79 in the RPI.

LAST TIME OUT (vs. Texas Southern)
Ole Miss needed a bounce-back win in a big way and came away with a solid victory over Texas Southern, topping the Lady Tigers, 73-58, at The Pavilion on Dec. 28.

Ole Miss started out hot, opening the game on a 12-0 run that ended with a 28-12 advantage by the end of the first quarter -- the most by the Rebels since scoring 30 in the first quarter vs. Delaware State.

Sophomore Shelby Gibson started at center for the first time this season, leading the way with a career-high 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting and a 5-of-7 clip from the charity stripe in 25 minutes played. Gibson also chipped in with six rebounds.

WINNING WHEN IT COUNTS
Ole Miss is 4-0 in games decided by 10 points or less, proving its ability to hang on throughout the non-conference season. In those games, the Rebels are only shooting .250 from three and are being out-rebounded by nearly four boards a game (44.8-40.2), but are finding a way to stay ahead with a .411 shooting percentage (while holding opponents to just .342 overall).

In those games, junior Alissa Alston is the Rebels' top scorer by far with 23.5 PPG and a .604 clip from the field and an .833 mark from the free throw line. Fellow junior Madinah Muhammad is second at 18.0 PPG with a blistering .923 mark from the charity stripe.

Last season, Ole Miss went 5-6 in games decided by 10 points or less -- including a 73-64 win over Arkansas at home.

SEVEN-GAME TEAR
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.

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 nine of its 13 opponents under 40 percent shooting, going 9-0 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 13 opponents to under 30 percent three-point shooting (going 6-1 in such games).

Ole Miss has also held opponents to under 60 points eight 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 (5.7) and fourth in the SEC in three-point defense (.291).

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 74.8 points per game -- the fifth-best average in the SEC -- which includes 78.3 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 14th nationally in attempts (295) and 24th in free throws made (194).

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 (5.7) and 11th in total blocks (74) -- 39 of which come from Taylor, who ranks fifth in total blocks and ninth in blocks per game (3.0). The Rebels have blocked at least five shots in all but but four games this season and have swatted seven or more on five different occasions.

Because of the surge in blocked shots, the Rebels -- at 5.7 blocks per game -- are currently on pace for 170 total blocks by season's end, potentially destroying the current single-season record of 129 set in 1982-83.

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INDIVIDUAL NOTES

SHELBY'S BIG NIGHT
After entering Thursday's game vs. Texas Southern averaging just 3.4 points and 10.3 minutes a game this season, sophomore Shelby Gibson started at center for the first time this season and didn't disappoint with a career-day. Gibson led Ole Miss in scoring for the first time since Jan. 26, 2017 (15 at Kentucky) with a career-high 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting and a 5-of-7 clip from the charity stripe in 25 minutes played. Gibson also chipped in with six rebounds.

#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 17.6 PPG in those seven 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 33.2 PPG and are shooting a combined .398 from the field and .839 from the free throw line for 72 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.

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 seventh in the SEC at 17.8 points per game and has only been held under double-digit twice in 13 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 823 and a career average of 11.6 PPG. At her current season pace of 17.8 points per game, Muhammad is on pace to reach 1,125 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, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors twice this year. Taylor has been dominant on both ends of the floor, currently ranking ninth nationally in blocks per game (3.0) and sixth in the SEC in shooting percentage (.585).

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.

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, W, 73-58)
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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