Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell wanted his team to conclude its playing days inside the Tad Smith Coliseum with a win. It literally took every last second of Sunday’s Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt for that to happen. Insell’s Rebels had their hands full with the hot-streaking Commodores, who made every opportunity count on both ends of the court.
Rebels refuse to lose
But the Rebels were tenacious as they refused to leave the Tad Pad with a loss.
On an isolation play with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game, Erika Sisk drove the lane and got the foul for the 3-point play to give Ole Miss the 55-52 win over Vanderbilt (11-3, 0-1 SEC) in the conference opener for both programs. The Rebels finished their time inside Tad Smith Coliseum with a record of 410-126 and extended their winning streak to three games.
Ole Miss also ended their opponent’s six-game winning streak in the series and 10-game winning streak this season. Sisk had a game-high 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
“What a great win, not only for our basketball team but for our program as a whole” said Ole Miss coach Matt Insell, who is 1-2 against the Commodores as the Rebels coach. “Ole Miss Women’s basketball has had a standard for many years, and this building has been a major part of that.”
Ole Miss (9-5, 1-0) closed the gap to 31-30 after a made layup from Alissa Alston, but Vanderbilt quickly went on a 9-2 run to end the third period and took a commanding 40-32 lead.
And in the early minutes of the final period, Christa Reed’s corner three-pointer gave the Commodores a comfortable 47-35 lead. The situation looked bleak for the home team until junior guard Shequila Joseph gave the Rebels some life with five straight points. She then nailed her second 3 of the game to cut Vanderbilt’s lead to 47-45.
Both programs traded baskets on their next two possessions, but then the Commodores’ leading scorer, Reed, nailed a wide open 3 to keep her team out front, 52-48. Shandricka Sessom and Joseph went to the free throw line on Ole Miss’ next two possessions and drained all four shots to tie the game at 52-all with 3.4 seconds left.
Sessom and Joseph both finished with 12 points.
Vanderbilt’s Reed finished with 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting in 27 minutes, but she feels the loss to the Rebels will not deter her team from being one of the top contenders in the SEC. “It’s a new season and right now we are 0-1 and we are not going to keep losing,” she said. “It just adds fuel to the fire,” she noted. Reed finished the game 2-of-5 from the 3-point line,
After the Rebels tied the game, they got the ball back when the Commodores turned the ball over on their next possession. That gave the Rebels a chance to win the game at the end of regulation—and Sisk was ready for the final play.
“I just knew I had to make a play,” said Sisk, who had six steals and three assists.
Rebels overcome first half turnovers
After the Rebels’ leading scorer, Sessom, made the team’s first four points of the game, Ole Miss went into a first-half slump from which it had a hard time escaping. The Rebels were 0-for-7 from 3 and shot 36 percent (9-for-25) overall in the first half.
The stat that stood out the most was the 12 first-half turnovers by the Rebels, which led to 16 points for Vanderbilt. The Commodores ended the second period on a 6-0 run that was capped off by Rebekah Dahlman’s fast break layup. Vanderbilt made its last three shot attempts of the half and took a 29-20 lead into the locker room.
As for Ole Miss, the Rebels missed six of their last eight shots and couldn’t find any offensive rhythm outside of junior forward Bretta Hart, who had eight points on 4-or-4 shooting.
Ole Miss closed the gap to three points twice—both off of made baskets from Hart—but the Commodores would counter with a short scoring spurt. After Hart’s made layup with the assist from Sisk, the Rebels were down 21-18. Then Dahlman knocked down two free throws.
Hart made another layup on the break, then Vanderbilt completed a run of six quick points—four of which came from Morgan Batey. The Vandy scoring flurry was capped off by Dahlman’s layup. She had six points at the break and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Ole Miss: Shandricka Sessom extended her streak of scoring in double figures to 15 games. Sessom is averaging 18.3 points per game and is leading the SEC and ranks No. 51 in the nation.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores came in averaging 69.4 points per game, but were held to 52 points, their lowest scoring effort of the season.
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics