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Taylor Manuel and Shelby Gibson bring much-needed balance to Insell’s Rebels

Taylor Manuel and Shelby Gibson bring much-needed balance to Insell’s Rebels

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss women’s basketball head coach Matt Insell can’t stop talking about his new post players, Taylor Manuel and Shelby Gibson. He has good reason to rave about the duo since they have added balance to what was once more of a guard-oriented team.

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Taylor Manuel finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds in the Rebels’ 76-49 win over Lipscomb. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

This balance Insell has been looking for is showing dividends in the early portions of the 2016-17 season. In two games played, Gibson and Manuel are averaging 12 points and 11 points per game, respectively.

Thanks to the diligence in the post in the team’s 76-49 win over Lipscomb, junior guard Shandricka Sessom was able to score a game-high 26 points on 11 of 19 shooting.

Sessom got great looks at the basket thanks to the double teams Manuel and Gibson were seeing on the low block, especially Manuel. The Bison defense collapsed each time Manuel got her hands on the basketball, and with a great basketball IQ, she quickly kicked it out to Sessom when she was all alone on the wing or in the corner.

Manuel making an impact

There were also moments in Sunday’s game when Manuel showed off her dribbling skills by dribbling the ball up the floor – behind her back a couple of times – past a handful of Lipscomb defenders.

“She probably knows more about the game than our entire coaching staff combined,” Insell said about the 6-foot-4 graduate transfer from Loyola Chicago.

“What makes Manuel special is she thinks the game like a coach. She knows where people are supposed to be offensively; she knows where people are supposed to be defensively. She can score the ball on the inside; she can score the ball on the outside. She’s an incredible passer. It’s a blessing we were able to get a fifth-year senior as good as her. That’s something that’s really, really exciting and if I find one every year just like her, I will.”

Head coach Matt Insell on Taylor Manuel

Gibson helping Rebels space the floor

Manuel might be the most experienced post player for the Rebels (2-0) this season, but Gibson gives Ole Miss the ability to space the floor, since the 6-3 freshman forward has the ability to knock down 15-foot jump shots. She’s also an asset on the glass as she’s averaging four rebounds per game. She’s not afraid to get physical and go after 50-50 balls.

For the season, Gibson has three steals, which ranks third on the team.

“Talking about a freshman that scored 14 in the first game, 10 in the second game, she’s getting better and better.”

Matt Insell on Shelby Gibson

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Shelby Gibson notched 10 points in the win over Lipscomb. (Photo: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Insell insists the best way for the Rebels to continue to have successful guard play is to run their offense through their frontcourt. Ole Miss had 16 assists on 30 made field goals against the Bison.

“Just play around Taylor and that’s what they did,” Insell said. “Every time Taylor caught it, they were running three and four people at her. They (Bison) weren’t leaving Taylor, which allows them to open up and they saw those openings and those creases where they didn’t see it the night before.

“They got to learn how to pick their plot, pick their places there offensively. That’s important and they were able to get going and that was huge.”

Next Up:

Ole Miss and Jacksonville State tip off tonight at 6:00 p.m. (CT) in The Pavilion at Ole Miss.

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 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.

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