OXFORD, Miss. – Each time Ole Miss found itself on the brink of an easy win, the Rebels saw VCU respond with determination on both ends of the floor.
But after a slightly shaky first-half performance, the Rebels (9-2) found their spark in the third quarter, outscoring the Rams 20-12, and ultimately defeating VCU 77-57 inside The Pavilion Saturday afternoon. The victory gives Matt Insell career win No. 50. The Rebels’ head coach entered the season with a 41-54 overall coaching record in three seasons with the program.
“Another great effort by our basketball team. We struggled a little bit early, defensively. I challenged them at halftime. They came out in the third quarter and held them to 12 points, which was really, really good. Just real proud of our effort. It’s a consistent thing every game.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell
Junior guard Chrishae Rowe led Ole Miss with 14 points on 5 of 13 shooting in just her second game this season with the team after transferring from Oregon, the same program the Rebels defeated 83-67 on Wednesday night for their first Top 25 win on the season.
(Click here for box score.)
Junior guard Shandricka Sessom had 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting, with some of her points coming at a pivotal time for Ole Miss. Sessom scored five of the Rebels’ eight points during their short scoring run in the third quarter.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from freshman forward Shelby Gibson and sophomore guard Alissa Alston gave Ole Miss a 51-38 lead. After Curteeona Brelove made 1 of 2 from the free throw line, the Rebels went on an 8-0 spurt to extend their lead to 59-40.
As a team, Ole Miss made 29 of 60 shots from the field.
The Rebels, following their biggest win of the season on Wednesday night against No. 25 Oregon, looked as if, early on, they might run away from VCU (6-6). Ole Miss quickly jumped out to an 8-0 lead thanks to two 3-pointers from Shequila Joseph and Erika Sisk.
But the Rams weren’t about to go down without a fight.
VCU got within 22-18 off a layup from Keira Robinson. However, a short 9-3 run gave Ole Miss a 31-21 lead, its first double digit lead of the game. Brelove’s jumper sliced the Rams’ deficit back to single digits (29-20), but the Rebels answered with back-to-back scores from C.C. Muhate and Alissa Alston to make it 33-21, Ole Miss.
Ole Miss managed to stay in front of the pesky Rams and went into halftime up 39-30.
“We weren’t very good defensively in the first half. That’s uncharacteristic of us. We are usually good. Why we weren’t? I don’t know.”
The Rams shot 40 percent for the game, and turned 14 Rebel turnovers into 20 points. Ole Miss shot 48.5 percent in the first half.
Graduate transfer Mooriah Rowser had 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting to lead VCU. Brelove had a game-high 12 rebounds, exceeding her season average of 4.7.
Ole Miss: Ole Miss has won eight straight at home this season, the best start to the home slate in the Insell era and also the best start to a home season since the 2012-13 season when the Rebels won their first seven home games.
For the second consecutive game, Ole Miss played a first time opponent in VCU. The Rams are the eighth team the Rebels have played from the Atlantic 10. Ole Miss improves to 7-1 against teams from the A-10. Ole Miss last faced a team from the A-10 in 2012-13 when it took on UMass, earning a 71-59 win.
Erika Sisk is the first Rebel to record 10 assists in a single game since Feb. 9, 2014 when Valencia McFarland recorded 10 at Georgia. Sisk added eight points on 3 of 6 shooting in 25 minutes of action.
VCU: The Rams played their fourth road contest in the last five games against Ole Miss, falling to 2-3 on the road this season. VCU is 2-12 overall against current Southeastern Conference teams with the two wins against Kentucky (2000-01) and South Carolina (1996-97). The last SEC team the Rams faced was Arkansas on Dec. 21, 2009. VCU lost the game 68-58 at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Rams are 0-5 all-time playing in the state of Mississippi with four of those losses coming to Southern Miss. The other team VCU has faced from Mississippi are the Mississippi State Bulldogs on a neutral floor. The Rams are 0-11 all-time against the Eagles of Southern Miss but haven’t played since the 1999-00 season.
Insell on reaching 50 wins
“We have had some interesting ones to get to 50, but you wish you would get there quicker,” Insell said of reaching the milestone.
Ole Miss hosts Austin Peay on Tuesday (6:00 p.m., SECN+).
VCU travels to Wake Forest on Wednesday (11:00 a.m.).
(Feature image credit: Petre Thomas, Ole Miss Athletics)