OXFORD, Miss. — In the beginning of a new era in Oxford, the Ole Miss women’s basketball team opened its season Tuesday night with a 60-42 win over Norfolk St. in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
(Click here for box score.)
Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin led her Rebels on to the floor for the first time in a game as the Ole Miss head coach, excited and ready to start her tenure at the helm of the program. The Rebels, who enter the season with a total of nine newcomers, only have four returning players from last year’s team.
Norfolk St., on the other hand, returns a large amount of its overall production with just over 62% of their scoring back from the previous season. Of their four starters who return from last season, three received Preseason All-MEAC honors—including their leading scoring guard, Raven Russel, who averaged a solid 11.0 ppg in the 2017-2018 season.
Rebels rebound from slow start
The first quarter of play saw the visiting Spartans sprint out to an 8-0 advantage over the Rebels before redshirt freshman Mimi Reid ducked in and out of traffic to put up a layup, officially scoring the first points of the Coach Yo era.
Even though they were behind early, the Rebels rallied and put together a solid ending to the first quarter as the buzzer sounded with the Rebels up, 14-13. In that opening period, Ole Miss shot 6-13 from the floor and gathered some confidence heading into the latter part of the first half.
Coach Yo’s team would hit the ground running in the second quarter, outscoring Norfolk 21-11 in the period. The Rebs’ points came from all over the floor as they shot 50% from the floor and held the Spartans to a dreary 18% shooting in the second period.
The solid first-half performance of La’Karis Salter helped Ole Miss take a double-digit lead into the half. Salter notched 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in the first two quarters of play.
The second half started similarly to the first as the Spartans were able to mount a miniature rally that abruptly ended as the unselfish Rebel team was able to drive to the basket on multiple occasions and pick up shooting fouls on the way to the rim.
Ole Miss was able to keep its lead near 10 points for the majority of the 3rd quarter. Rallies from both teams led to each squad making plenty of fast breaks up and down the court as a result of 10 turnovers between the two. The Spartans did, in fact, narrowly edge the Rebels in the 3rd period by a score of 15-13, making the score 48-39 heading into the final quarter of play. Up to that point, nine Rebels had logged minutes in the game, with seven of those scoring.
The 4th period saw Ole Miss slowly start to pull away as the team outscored the Spartans, 12-3, en route to a 60-42 victory. Crystal Allen, who played a big part in the second-half breakaway, finished with16 points and went 7 for 9 from the free throw line as she and her teammates helped give Caoch Yo her first win as a Rebel.
After the game, Coach Yo described to the media what fans will see when they watch her team.
“We’re gonna be tough,” McPhee-McCuin said.
I never said we were gonna win games. I said we’re gonna be tough, we’re gonna be competitive, we’re gonna act like we enjoy playing the game, and when you watch us, you will be able to see that.
Coach Yo on her Rebels’ team
Player of the game: Jhileiya Dunlap had a remarkable game as she played 33 minutes and racked up a double-double, scoring 12 points, notching 10 rebounds, and recording two assists that helped give her team the push they needed to pull out a victory.
Dunlap was critical in helping the Ole Miss down low as the 6’2 forward out of Columbia, SC got her layups to go early and developed her mid-range jumper throughout the game. She will look to continue to improve upon her fantastic game this Friday against IUPUI.
The Rebels will be back at home this Friday at 7:00 p.m. (CT) to face the IUPUI Jaguars.
Coach Yo talks with media after the Rebels defeated Norfolk St., 60-42. (Video: Archie Breland, The Rebel Walk)