Rebels’ Sessom scores 24 as Ole Miss tops MVSU in season opener
Ole Miss head basketball coach Matt Insell knew it wasn’t his Rebels’ best performance on opening day, but he was also happy that his team didn’t play a perfect game too early in the 2015-16 season.
After somewhat of a sloppy offensive performance in the first half, Ole Miss finally woke up and took full control of a game that featured a combination of bad shots, turnovers and uncontested missed shots from all over the floor.
Shandricka Sessom led the Rebels (1-0) with 24 points, and Erika Sisk added 15 to lead Ole Miss to the 97-61 victory over SWAC’s Mississippi Valley State in the School Kids Day game. The win gives the program its eighth-consecutive season-opening win and its 38th overall win in a home opener.
“Really sluggish early on, kind of expected that with having a young team and we talk about it with nine freshmen and sophomores and having to learn how to play with each other,” Insell said. “Trying to learn what our identity is defensively, it’s always good when you get in the game and figure all of that out.
“Offensively we were real sluggish there, because we were rushing everything. It was one pass and shoot and that’s not what our offense is designed to do.”
The Rebels grabbed their biggest lead of the game, 65-50, late in the third quarter off a free throw from Sisk, but it was Sisk’s teammate Sessom who sparked an Ole Miss’ offense that was in search of consistency and balance as MVSU traded baskets with the Rebels for all of the first half.
Sessom scored 10 of her 24 points in the third quarter; however, Insell wasn’t surprised she had the offensive talents to pull off such a performance. “I see her do it every day in practice,” Insell said about his sophomore guard.
I think she’s one of the most talented players in our league. She’s a sophomore. She’s going to have some good days and some bad days. I have to have patience with her from time to time because I want more, more and more. But as she continues to go, the sky is her limit.
Head Coach Matt Insell on sophomore guard, Sessom
Rebels overcome a sluggish first half
Ole Miss started off 4-of-6 from the field, then went into a serious scoring funk, missing everything from short jumpers to close-up layups with hardly any MVSU player in reach for a block.
The Rebels led 9-4 early on, but the Lady Devilettes went on a 7-0 run to take the 15-11 lead–capped off by a fast-break layup by the team’s only returning leading scorer, Ashley Beals. MVSU’s run stayed on course heading into the second quarter, with an uncontested layup by Zemoria Jernigan and one free throw by Kahdejah Stevens.
Beals had 16 to lead the Lady Devilettes. Kadesha Floyd added 14; Stevens had 10. MVSU had 35 turnovers and Ole Miss scored 36 points off of them. After Stevens’ lone free throw, the home team finally woke up and the crowd, full of elementary school students, did as well.
Second-half crowd energy propels Rebels
Sessom felt the energy of the home crowd gave her and her teammates a boost in the second half, where the Rebels outscored the Lady Devilettes 63-32 and shot 45.8 percent from the field, a better performance from the 28.9 percentage (13 of 45) in the first half.
“I would say it kind of helped in the second half, because when we went into the locker room, we actually talked about it saying, ‘pick it up’,” said Sessom, who added six rebounds and three assists.
Sessom’s 24 points are a career-high for the sophomore guard. This is Sessom’s second career game of 20+ points. The last time a Rebel player scored 24 points was last season when former Rebel great Tia Faleru notched 24 in a win over Georgia Tech. Kelsey Briggs also finished in double figures for the Rebels with 12 points, while Erika Sisk added 15 points.
Mississippi Valley State is one of three teams from the SWAC the Rebels will face this season. Ole Miss will also host Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama A&M in non-conference action this season. Ole Miss is 72-6 against teams from the SWAC all-time.
The win over the Lady Devilettes moves the Rebels 15 games closer to the 800th win in program history. The earliest Ole Miss could hit the 800th win would be on Jan. 10 vs. Florida during the Pavilion at Ole Miss opening weekend.
Ole Miss Women’s Basketball broke the attendance record on School Kids Day with 7,407. This is the second consecutive season the Rebels home opener is the School Kids game.
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics