OXFORD, Miss. – For the first two quarters, the Ole Miss women’s basketball team didn’t shoot particularly well, nor did the Rebels play aggressive defense.
But all of that changed in the second half.
Madinah Muhammad scored 19 and Shandricka Sessom added 16 points to lead Ole Miss (14-8, 3-6 Southeastern Conference) to a 69-62 victory over Georgia, ending the Rebels’ four-game losing streak.
(Click here for box score.)
The Rebels trailed for the entire first half, but they kept fighting and used a barrage of three-pointers to take a 51-41 lead at the end of three periods. Ole Miss outscored the Bulldogs 25-7 in that third period, converting on a sizzling 62.5 percent of their shots from long range.
At the beginning of the fourth, the Rebels built their lead to 53-41 off Sessom’s jumper; however, Georgia later cut its deficit to 61-55 with 1:23 to go in the game. Free throws down the stretch by Muhammad, Alissa Alston, and Sessom sealed the win for Ole Miss.
Alston finished with 12 points and six assists, hitting 4 of 8 shots from the field.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell knew his team needed the victory in whatever way it could get it.
“We lost four straight. I didn’t care how we won. We just needed a win. And we got that.”
Matt Insell, Ole Miss head coach
In the first half, it was basically a game of two-on-five with McKenzie Engram (the sister of former Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram) and Pachis Roberts running Georgia’s offense. The two combined to score 21 of the Bulldogs’ 34 first-half points to help Georgia take an eight-point lead into halftime.
The Bulldogs (10-11, 2-6) led by as many as 12 points early in the second quarter, but Ole Miss rallied behind Shelby Gibson’s physical play in the post. She converted on two 3-point plays to give the Rebels some life on offense. She made 3 of 4 shots from the floor, and hit all four of her attempts from the free throw line.
Gibson finished with 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting in 22 minutes of action.
“She kept us in the game early. We didn’t have anything going. We couldn’t make a shot. Gibson played her butt off.”
Insell on Shelby Gibson
Thanks to Gibson, Ole Miss stayed in striking distance–despite the Rebels making only 10 of 31 shots from the field, including 2 of 16 shots from 3-point range, both of which were made by Muhammad.
Georgia made 24 of 55 shots from the field, including 6 of 21 from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs owned a 38-31 advantage on the boards. Engram led Georgia with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Roberts added 17 points, five assists, and five rebounds. Both shot 7 of 14 from the field.
Shooting guard Torri Lewis broke a bone in her foot at practice on Friday, which will cause her to miss the remainder of the season. For the season, Lewis averaged 3.6 points, 1.0 rebound, and 0.8 assists per game.
Tie for good luck
The tie Matt Insell wore on Sunday was the same one he wore the last time Ole Miss played Georgia in Oxford. The Rebels defeated the then 18th-ranked Bulldogs, 55-52, for their first win over a ranked opponent in the Insell era.
Georgia now leads the series 32-13 and is 9-9 against Ole Miss in games played in Oxford.
“Last night when I had nothing to do at the house, I re-watched that game when we beat Georgia here two years ago. I saw I had this tie on and I had to go dig it up. Maybe I will wear it again at some point, try every game from this point forward.”
Ole Miss will have a week off, with its next game at Florida on Feb. 6 (6:00 p.m., SEC).
Georgia will travel to Arkansas on Thursday (8:00 p.m., SECN+).
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)