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OXFORD, Miss. – Heading into this season with a ton of optimism, the Ole Miss women’s basketball team wanted to show it finally has stability in the backcourt.
With the addition of graduate transfer Taylor Manuel and freshman Shelby Gibson, the Rebels may have found what they need to balance out the scoring on offense.
Sophomore guard Madinah Muhammad led Ole Miss (1-0) with 16 points and the Rebels were able to dominate Southeastern Louisiana (0-1) from start to finish with the 81-31 victory on Friday afternoon inside the Pavilion. It was the season opener for both programs.
Manuel scored 10 of the Rebels’ first 15 points in the first five minutes of the first period to give Ole Miss an early 15-1 lead. The Lions didn’t score their first point until the 7:29 mark of the first period off a free throw by Ashailee Brailey.
Taz Stinson led SLU with seven points. As a team, the Lions shot just 16.7 percent (9 of 54) from the field.
The Rebels went into their locker room up 43-12 at the half, but the majority of their momentum began in the first period. Ole Miss shot 57.9 percent in the first 10 minutes but only converted on 5 of 17 shots in the second period.
In addition to Manuel’s dominance – 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting – in the post, Gibson made her presence known, scoring 14 points and grabbing six rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of depth. Taylor Manuel is very good. She can play 29, 30, 32, or 33 minutes if we need her to. She’s a very smart player. She’s someone, when we throw the ball into her and Shelby Gibson, we are going to get a basket. And that hasn’t been the case in years past.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell on his frontcourt
Muhammad and junior guard Shandricka Sessom were the non-post players who were effective for the Rebels on offense. Sessom had 10 points but couldn’t stay on the floor due to foul trouble. She had four fouls.
Ole Miss had 26 turnovers, which were converted into 28 points for the Lions. Turning the ball over is something Insell hopes the team will fix as the season goes along. SLU had 27 turnovers; however, the Rebels only scored 10 points off of them.
“We got a lot we got to clean up from an execution standpoint but I’m really happy to be 1-0 and we will work on that tomorrow. If you didn’t have anything to clean up this time of the year then I would be scared about that.”
With the win over SLU, Ole Miss has won its ninth-consecutive season-opener and its 12th consecutive home-opener. The Rebels are 4-0 in home openers in the Matt Insell era and are 1-0 in home openers at The Pavilion.
Ole Miss is five wins away from its 800th program victory. The earliest the Rebels could get all-time win No. 800 would be with a victory over Wisconsin in the opening round of the UNLV Lady Rebel Round up over Thanksgiving.
The Rebels host Lipscomb on Sunday (5:00 p.m., SEC Network+).
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
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 Rivals.com. 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.