OXFORD, Miss. – Before he walked off the basketball court in The Pavilion on the first day of Southeastern Conference play, Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell gave Shequila Joseph a kiss on the cheek.
That kiss was for good reason.
After trailing by more than 20 points, the visiting Arkansas Razorbacks used a 15-2 run late in the fourth quarter to cut their deficit to single digits (69-61). But a basket from Joseph–who then took a charge on the other end–sealed the Rebels’ 73-64 win over the Hogs (11-3, 0-1 SEC) on New Year’s Day in the first SEC game of the season for both programs.
Joseph finished with a team-high 15 points and 13 rebounds. Insell was obviously pleased with the performance of his senior forward.
“When she’s consistent and she’s on, we are pretty good. Fifteen points and 13 rebounds, that’s pretty good. That’s a big time game for a kid there. She’s been player of the week in this league. She has done great things, and she will continue to do it.”
Matt Insell on Shequila Joseph
Rebels go on big run in third quarter
Before the late scare, Ole Miss (12-2, 1-0) was in complete control, following a big run in the third quarter that gave the Rebels a 57-41 lead heading into the deciding period.
The run, which started with two foul shots by Taylor Manuel, followed by a 3-pointer from Madinah Muhammad, was capped off by a three-pointer from Joseph that gave Ole Miss a 50-35 lead at the 3:32 mark of the third quarter.
However, the Razorbacks continued to fight and a jumper by Jailyn Mason and a layup by Devin Cosper sliced Arkansas’ deficit to 50-39. But, the Rebels quickly pushed their lead back up to 16 after a three by Torri Lewis.
Insell’s team has now won six straight, with the last loss coming on the road at then-No. 16 West Virginia. Ole Miss shot 41.7 percent from the field in the win over Arkansas.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well,” Insell said about the Rebels, who outrebounded their opponent 50-33. “But when we had to make them, we made them.”
Gibson shines in the win
For a while, it looked as if Ole Miss might run away from Arkansas. The Rebels who led for most of the first half, outside of the Razorbacks’ short 5-4 lead at the 6:22 mark of the first quarter.
Ole Miss went on a 6-0 run in the second quarter to push its lead up to 19-10. During the run, Shelby Gibson scored four of the six points for Ole Miss. After the game, Coach Insell remarked on the play of the talented freshman post player.
“She just played her butt off. Shelby Gibson is going to be as good of a post player that’s been here in a long time before it’s all said and done. I don’t want to put pressure on her saying she’ll be the best that’s ever played post here–we have a lot of good ones hanging in the rafters. She’ll be one of the better ones to play in this program.”
Matt Insell on Shelby Gibson
Gibson added 12 points and five rebounds on 5 of 9 shooting. Sessom had a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds).
Rebels respond to pesky Hogs
Late in the second quarter, Arkansas got within one on two occasions, but each time it did the Rebels responded with a score. Swenson’s two free throws had cut the Razorbacks’ deficit to one point at 25-24 until Bretta Hart’s layup pushed Ole Miss’ lead back up to 27-24.
Mason’s jumper with 16 seconds left before halftime sent Arkansas to the locker room down only one, 27-26, at the half.
Mason, one of four Razorbacks to score in double figures, finished with 10 points. Swenson led Arkansas with 19, while Alecia Cooley added 12. Jackson added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Though she was just 3 of 15 from the field, Jackson’s head coach, Jimmy Dykes, believes she took quality shots.
“She was our leading shot taker. She got the shots we wanted; they just didn’t go in tonight,” Dykes said. “They didn’t do anything defensively to bother her. It was just one of those nights the ball didn’t go in for her.”
Insell on the Rebels’ win
Coach Insell knows his Rebels just defeated a solid Razorbacks’ team, picking up a critical SEC victory.
“That’s a good basketball team we just beat. They’re a team that’ll be one of the top seven or eight teams in this league. That’s a win we had to get and we got it.”
Ole Miss: Sunday’s game was the 42nd meeting between Ole Miss and Arkansas, with the Rebels now leading the all-time series 26-16. Ole Miss holds a 15-3 advantage in games played in Oxford. The last time the two teams met in an SEC-opener was in 2014-15 when Ole Miss defeated the Razorbacks, 71-51.
The Rebels improve to 3-1 in SEC-openers in the Insell era and are 9-2 in SEC home-openers over the last 11 seasons. Ole Miss began its SEC slate at home for the fourth consecutive season and won its third straight SEC home-opener.
Rebels’ junior guard and Oregon transfer Chrishae Rowe didn’t play against Arkansas Sunday, but she was present on the bench in street clothes. Insell said it was a “coach’s decision” to keep her out, but he added she will play in Ole Miss’ next game against Alabama. For the season, since joining the team in December, Rowe is averaging 10.5 points and four rebounds.
Arkansas: Jessica Jackson came in shooting 43.7 percent from the field. She ended the game shooting just 20 percent. Arkansas has lost two straight.
Ole Miss travels to Alabama on Thursday (7:00 p.m., SEC+).
Arkansas hosts No. 5 Mississippi State on Thursday (7:00 p.m., SECN+).
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)