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Insell knows Ole Miss is a better team after tough six-game stretch

Insell knows Ole Miss is a better team after tough six-game stretch

Going 1-5 in the Southeastern Conference against six of seven teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 doesn’t look pretty on paper, but it’s something the Ole Miss women’s basketball team can build on and learn from.

Following Sunday’s 60-46 defeat to then-No. 22 Missouri, Rebels head coach Matt Insell was happy with the effort his team displayed, despite seeing a 16-for-66 shooting performance in a game that was plagued by missed opportunities at the rim. But most importantly, Insell saw something in his team that can carry over into the final, eight regular-season games of the 2015-16 season: growth.

The youngest team in the SEC grew up in front of its coach’s eyes, and Insell doesn’t want the 2-6 start in conference play nor the loss to the Tigers to define what Ole Miss stands for:

You’re going to break through; you’re going to push through, something special is going to happen with this basketball team. You just have to keep playing, you can’t get down. You can’t let your record define who you are. You can’t let this game define who you are, because you’re a lot better than what your record is.

The Rebels started the gauntlet of their stacked SEC schedule at home against No. 22 Florida on Jan. 10, and followed that up with road games at No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 11 Mississippi State. Then, Ole Miss returned home and upset then-12th-ranked Kentucky on Jan. 21 before falling at No. 2 South Carolina last Thursday.

Against the Tigers, the Rebels held their own for the most part, forcing Missouri into 25 turnovers, scoring 21 off of them. The fight was there for the full 40 minutes. The energy was there, along with the determination. But the wide open shots weren’t falling.

Two of Ole Miss’ most efficient scorers, Shandricka Sessom and Torri Lewis, combined to go 7-for-30 from the field–2 for 16 from 3-point range–and Insell saw the disappointment on their faces in the locker room on Sunday afternoon, because they knew they were better shooters than what the final stat sheet showed.

Insell knew it as well:

Those two ladies won’t go 2-for-16 together again. Those two young ladies get in the gym every day. They get in there and work at their trade every day and they are hurting back there because they are better shooters than what they did. And I hurt for them. I’m really proud of those two and I’m glad they kept shooting.

Things might not have been clicking for the Rebels offensively, but Ole Miss (10-11) arguably played one of its best defensive games of the season, holding the Tigers to under their season scoring average of 73 points per game. Also, the Rebels held one of Missouri’s double-digit scorers, freshman forward Cierra Porter, under her season average of 10.6 points per game.

Porter finished with seven points, three assists, and three blocks on 3 for 7 shooting in 37 minutes, while playing with three fouls.

The struggles Ole Miss has endured in the gauntlet of tough games could be coming to an end.

“We went through a stretch where we faced six teams in the top 25 and when we started this stretch, we had some struggles,” Insell said. “We are a better basketball team to end the stretch than we were to start this stretch. Now, we have to carry it over into February and we got some home games against some really good teams.

“We get South Carolina again; we get Mississippi State again; we get Texas A&M again. We get those teams at home and you have to carry that momentum and start making the plays to win these games. But first we have to go on the road and play an Alabama team on Thursday that’s a good basketball team.”

Ole Miss and the Crimson Tide (13-9, 2-7) will tip-off Thursday night at 6 p.m. central time on the SEC Network+.

(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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