Missouri Outpaces Ole Miss, 86-77
Shakira Austin (26 Points) and Donnetta Johnson (20 Points) Led for Ole Miss
OXFORD, Miss. – An early hole proved to be too much to dig out of, overshadowing excellent outings from Shakira Austin and Donnetta Johnson as the Ole Miss women’s basketball team fell to Missouri, 86-77, at The Pavilion on Thursday night.
(Click here for box score.)
The Rebels (7-3, 1-3 SEC) were able to erase much of what ended up a 12-point first half deficit due to a sluggish start, but the Tigers (5-3, 1-2 SEC) rode a blistering 56.6 percent shooting effort from the floor and a 9-of-19 clip from beyond the arc to keep Ole Miss at bay.
“Dug ourselves a really deep hole in the first quarter,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “Just had to really fight hard to come back, and did not have the energy to do so to finish it out in key moments. We have to learn, and we have to keep getting better. We’re a young team, I’ve got full confidence in the group. They’re learning how physical the SEC is, they’re learning that no one is going to give it to us, and they’re learning that every night they have to fight.”
The Rebels shot 40 percent from the field and forced 18 turnovers, but Mizzou was on fire from the jump with five players ending up in double figures – led by sophomore Hayley Frank, who notched 23 points on a 5-of-8 clip from three. Sophomore Aijha Blackwell, who entered averaging 18.7 points in three career games against Ole Miss, started off hot with 12 points in the first quarter, but the Rebel defense closed in and stifled her to just three points for the remainder of the contest.
The dynamic duo of Austin and Johnson combined for 46 of the 77 Rebel points on Thursday. Austin ended with a career-high 26 points alongside 10 rebounds, her 18th career double-double and third as a Rebel. Johnson had her second consecutive 20-point outing with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Freshman Madison Scott, in her first action since Dec. 19 at George Mason, had 10 points and five rebounds. SEC freshmen leader in three-pointers, Snudda Collins, finished with nine points, all coming from beyond the arc – her fifth game this season with three or more threes.
Despite a hot 2-of-2 start beyond the arc from Missouri’s Aijha Blackwell, Ole Miss found early success in the paint. The lead changed five times before the Tigers used a 9-0 run to take a 19-11 lead with 4:15 left in the quarter. During that stretch, the Tigers shot 75 percent (6-of-8) from the floor. Missouri made seven of their last eight shots to end the first quarter and had a 29-21 lead. Austin and Johnson each had seven points during the quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Rebels forced Missouri to get shots up at the shot clock buzzer, resulting in a 3-7 second quarter mark from the field, but the Tigers still led by 10 with six minutes left in the first half. The Rebels used a sequence of four turnovers to cut the lead to seven a few minutes later. That sparked an Ole Miss 9-0 run to cut the lead to three with a minute left in the half, in large part to Johnson. Austin’s easy lay-in got Ole Miss into the locker room down 41-39.
As a unit, the Rebels shot 47 percent (17-36) from the floor in the first half, including an 8-14 second quarter mark while getting 14 assists and forcing nine turnovers defensively. Johnson led the way with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists. With the 13 points, Johnson owns the top two first half performances of the season to date (14 vs. Kansas). Austin had 12 points and three boards. Nearly a quarter of Ole Miss’ points came off turnovers.
Both teams struggled to find points to begin the second half due to turnovers. Four and a half minutes into the half, Missouri had a 49-43 lead after Haley Troup broke through a double team to find the basket. After trailing by eight, the Rebels chipped away at the deficit until they tied it with under two minutes left in the third quarter following Austin’s offensive rebound and second-chance basket. Frank’s three-pointer at the horn capped off a 9-0 Tiger run to conclude the third quarter with Missouri up 62-53.
The Tigers tied their largest lead of the evening (12) after another Frank three-pointer early in the fourth at the 9:09 mark. With 4:10 left to play, the Tigers had a 69-63 lead. Both teams traded three-point baskets before Missouri found open lanes to the baskets, forcing Ole Miss to call a timeout down 78-69 with 2:07 left to play. But that is as close as Ole Miss would get until the final buzzer.
The Rebels will be back in action this Sunday (Jan. 17) when they travel to face Georgia (11-1, 3-1 SEC). Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CT and can be seen on SEC Network.
(Article courtesy of Ole Miss Media Relations)
Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn’s love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.