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.
Ole Miss Rebels (10-3, 0-0 SEC)
Arkansas Razorbacks (9-4, 0-0 SEC)
ON THE AIR
Television/Online: SEC Network + / WatchESPN/ESPN3 | Play-by-Play: Bret Dolan
Series History: Ole Miss leads, 26-16
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
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.
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...
GETTING TO THE LINE
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).
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.
SHELBY'S BIG NIGHT
#SplashSisters, PART DEUX?
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
OH MY, SHE'S ON FIRE
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.
MARLEE TO THE RESCUE
THE KID CAN PLAY
ON PACE FOR GREATNESS
Sessom currently ranks as the 24th-best scorer in Ole Miss history with 1,131 career points scored.
TOURNAMENT TEAMS ON THE DOCKET
Troy (Nov. 21, W, 96-93)
Temple (Nov. 25, W, 64-48)
Oregon (Dec. 17, L, 90-46)
Texas Southern (Dec. 28, W, 73-58)
South Carolina (Jan. 4, at home)
Mississippi State (Jan. 11; Jan. 28)
Missouri (Jan. 18, at home)
Tennessee (Jan. 25, in Knoxville)
Texas A&M (Feb. 8, in College Station)
LSU (Feb. 15, in Baton Rouge)
Kentucky (Feb. 22, at home)
Auburn (Feb. 25, in Auburn)
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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