Ole Miss drops close contest to No. 18 Mississippi State
Ole Miss lost a heart breaker Thursday night against arch-rival Mississippi State. The game was tied at 62 with 14 seconds remaining when State’s freshman guard Morgan William hit a long two with only four seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 64-62 conference win in front of 3,383 fans in the Tad Smith Coliseum.
Mississippi State (20-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) had four players finish in double figures, with Breanna Richardson leading all Bulldogs with 16 points.
Ole Miss (14-6, 4-3 SEC) had two players in double figures. Freshman guard A’Queen Hayes led the Rebels with 12 points and also had five rebounds and five assists. Junior guard Gracie Frizzell finished with 10 points.
The Rebels were forced to play much of the game without senior forward Tia Faleru, who spent much of the game in foul trouble. Faleru fouled out with 1:54 remaining. Though she only was able to play for 22 minutes, Faleru contributed 8 points and 11 rebounds.
Sophomore Shequila Joseph had nine points and six rebounds in 26 minutes of play, as she stepped up and filled in for Faleru. Freshman Kelsey Briggs scored seven points and grabbed two rebounds in her 17 minutes of play.
Following the game, head coach Matt Insell explained the importance of having Faleru on the court, but also praised the Rebels who stepped up in her absence. “You’re playing without your All-SEC player,” he said. “She plays 22 minutes, and you still have a chance to win it.”
“Tia Faleru is a really good player and we really need her on the basketball court for us to be successful. It was hurtful for us to not have her for a large part of that game. I was really proud of Shequila Joseph and Kelsey Briggs,” he added.
Ole Miss took a 34-30 lead going into the half, but the Bulldogs came out firing and went on a 12-4 run to open the second period. State went up 42-38 and never relinquished the lead.
The Rebels kept up their intensity and appeared to have cut the lead to 55-53 on a shot by Faleru. However, a charging call went against her and took away a possible 3-point play. Instead, Faleru picked up her fourth foul and the Rebels were down 55-51.
With 1:54 remaining in the contest, Faleru fouled out, but Ole Miss kept up the pressure. After making its way to the free-throw line and making both with 46.6 seconds left, State took a 62-60 lead. McCray tied the game for the Rebels, only to have William make the game-clincher with too little time left for Ole Miss to respond.
After the game, Insell gave kudos to the Ole Miss crowd:
“Well I first want to thank Rebel Nation,” he said. “What a great crowd that was. I think Oxford, Mississippi and Rebel Nation just really showed up for us tonight. They showed us how much they cared about this basketball game. The crowd was into the game the entire time. I just want to thank everyone that came.”
He went on to acknowledge just how tough the loss was for the team. “Our team is hurting right now,” he said. “They battled. There is something about this team. When it gets tough they step up and start making the plays they need to make. They fought back and just could not get over that hump. I am really proud of their fight,” he added.
The Rebels do not play again until next Thursday against LSU, and Insell is giving his players a little rest before then. “We are not going to practice for the next two days,” he said. “I told them to take some time off. We have an off weekend. We have a good LSU team that we are playing next Thursday. We are going to worry about that on Sunday. We are going to get ready to play LSU.”
I am just really proud of our players and where our program is going. We have to continue to work hard every day and keep getting better.”
Next up: The Rebels travel to Baton Rouge to play LSU January 29th at 8:00 pm.
(Feature Image: Courtesy of Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)