Offensively, Ole Miss was where it needed to be in Sunday’s women’s basketball game against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette; however, on the defensive side, the Rebels appeared to lack quickness and a sense of urgency, and it was evident on Sunday night as ULL was able to get shots off from every angle of the floor.
Behind Jaylyn Gordon’s 29 points, ULL defeated Ole Miss 82-78 inside Tad Smith Coliseum for the Ragin Cajuns’ first win on the season and first win over the Rebels in the series. Gordon’s teammates, Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge, added 18 and 12 points, respectively.
“All the credit in the world to Louisiana-Lafayette. They have three explosive guards,” Ole Miss coach Matt Insell said. “I knew watching them on tape they were explosive. I knew watching them on tape if we come out and don’t play with any energy in the first half or the second half, that they were going to be tough for us to defend.”
Torri Lewis comes off the bench and sparks the Rebels
Ole Miss (1-1) trailed 71-49 in the fourth period, then things got interesting once freshman guard Torri Lewis came off the bench to spark a Rebels’ offense that was flat for most of the night. Lewis made three-consecutive 3’s in a three-minute span to close the gap to 75-61 with 5:05 to go.
Then Kiara Golden followed with a 3 of her own to cut the score to 75-64. Ole Miss got within two points late in the game off a 3-pointer from Madinah Muhammad, but two late free throws from Jordan Alexander sealed the win for ULL, which went 28-of-41 from the charity stripe.
Defense lacked energy for most of game
Ole Miss went into pressure defense when the game was still in reach, forming a full-court press late, but Insell’s feelings towards the overall defensive effort didn’t elicit so much as a smile. Just like in the season-opening win over Mississippi Valley State on Friday, the Rebels’ defense allowed easy points and Insell quickly pointed out there’s a long way to go before the Rebels are where he wants them to be.
“I really don’t know the word to put it,” Insell’s said in reaction to his team’s defense. “We pride ourselves on toughness and we would rotate and you got guards going in there just swiping at people and not rotating in and taking charges. Then, you got them just stopping, not playing.”
That’s probably the maddest I have been at halftime ever at a team. It had nothing to do with X’s and O’s or getting shots, it was all to do with energy. We had no energy.
Head Coach Matt Insell
Mounting a late comeback
Despite the slow-paced defense, Lewis came off the bench and placed the offense on her back and led them back into a game that had seemed out of reach after a first half where Ole Miss shot 32.4 percent from the floor and went 1-for-8 from deep.
Lewis, alone, went 6-of-7 from beyond the 3-point line and led the team in scoring with 20. Muhammad added 14; Shandricka Sessom had 12. It wasn’t a surprise to see Lewis put on a clinic from the perimeter; her coach and teammates knew what she was capable of doing.
“She works on it every day, so I wasn’t surprised when they were falling,” said Bretta Hart, who had a game-high 19 rebounds.
ULL starts off hot
At tip-off, Wilridge scored the game’s first two points off a layup and that was only the beginning for the ULL’s aggressive offensive attack that seemed to stun the Rebels. The Ragin Cajuns’ (1-0) ended the first quarter on a 12-4 run, and their assertiveness to the paint continued into the second period.
ULL had its biggest lead of the first half, 46-26, with 28 seconds before the break, capped off by a 3 from Alexander. The Ragin Cajuns’ ended the first half on a 14-1 run, while the Rebels were 2 of their last 15. Gordon’s last three for ULL before halftime came at the 4:01 mark in the corner, with no defender in sight. Insell later said he just couldn’t find a solution to what was going on with the Rebels on both ends.
“I have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to who starts the game,” Insell said. “And figure out what the problem is why we are not energetic when we start the game, and if there’s one person or two people, whatever it is, we have to figure it out.”
Ole Miss’ two returning leading scorers, Erika Sisk and A’Queen Hayes, combined for 10 points. Compounding the Rebels’ problems, they turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 17 points for the Ragin Cajuns’.
Rebels’ next game: Thursday (11/19) vs. Missouri State (6 p.m., SEC Network)
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics