OXFORD, Miss. – Instead of taking all of the credit for getting his 50th win on Saturday against VCU, Matt Insell pointed to the guidance and preparation of the entire administration at Ole Miss for making his journey to success possible.
The Rebels’ fourth-year head coach made sure he didn’t leave anyone out. First, Insell started with his coaching staff, the group that has supported him through the good, the bad, and the ugly since he took over as head coach back in 2013. While he sat behind the microphone following the Ole Miss’ 77-57 win over the Rams, the names of his assistant coaches — Alex Simmons, Brittany Hudson, and George Porcha — echoed out into the hallway of The Pavilion.
Insell then gave props to the Director of Operations, Eric White; Coordinator of Player Engagement, Arminitie Herrington; Assistant Athletic Trainer, Meredith Pendergast; Video Coordinator, Joe Pat Cope; and, Graduate Manager, Brett Ball.
Finally, Insell paid his respect to Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter; Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics, Ross Bjork; and Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director, Jessica Poole.
“True credit to our administration for believing in what we are doing,” Insell said. “I’m thankful for the people at this great university for believing in our process. Because a lot of times in college athletics, you get into a situation where people want it done immediately. They want the end result. They don’t understand the process of getting there. I, at times, didn’t understand that. I wanted it more, and more, and more, and more.”
The end result Insell, his staff, and the fans have been waiting for could possibly happen this season with the way Ole Miss is competing on the hardwood floor. The Rebels defeated then-No. 25 Oregon, 83-67, on Wednesday night, for their first Top 25 win on the season.
“We have a real good team. It’s taken us a while to build this roster. We said it from day one: We’re going to build a roster that can win at a high level, and it’s going to take time to do that. Credit to our administration fro giving us that time. A lot of times in college athletics, they don’t give you time but our administration believes in what we’re doing. We had some rough patches in those first three years, but we have a great staff and we battled through and now in Year Four, we have a team that can play with anybody in the country, and we showed that this week.”
Ole Miss has only experienced two losses thus far this season, coming up short to then-No. 16 West Virginia on the road, 66-61, and UNLV, 64-57, in the UNLV Thanksgiving Tournament.
Statistically, Insell’s Rebels are on the rise
Compared to last year’s team that finished 10-20 overall (2-14 in the Southeastern Conference), the Rebels (9-2) have improved dramatically on both ends of the court. Ole Miss is averaging 75.5 points per game (64.7 ppg last year), shooting 43 percent from the field (34.8 percent last year), and has made 68.3 percent of its free throws (61.1 percent last year).
Defensively, the Rebels are even better.
Insell’s group is holding its opponents to 51.9 points per game, while their opponents are shooting just 34 percent from the field. Just one season ago, Ole Miss allowed its opponents an average of 64.6 points per game, and let them shoot 42.5 percent from the field.
Insell jokingly said his team’s commitment to competing and getting better in all aspects of the game has affected his demeanor.
“The referees were like, ‘You seem a lot calmer over here on the sideline.’ I said, ‘Yeah, have you seen our team? They have made me a lot calmer.’”
Matt Insell on his demeanor this season
Sophomore guard Madinah Muhammad didn’t play Saturday against VCU as she sat out with a foot injury. Insell mentioned her X-Rays came back negative but said Muhammad’s foot was a bit swollen.
“Those type of things happen,” Insell said. “That’s why you have great depth.”
Muhammad has played in nine games this season and leads the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game. She’s also second on the team in total steals (21) and is averaging 2.3 steals a game, which ranks fifth in the SEC.
(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)