Coach Yo and the Rebels excited to be back in NCAA Tournament; Eight-seed Ole Miss will face nine-seed Gonzaga
OXFORD – The Ole Miss women’s basketball team is officially going dancing for the second year in a row, this time as an eight-seed.
The Rebels heard their named called during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show Sunday night, solidifying their spot in the Big Dance. They will face the nine-seed Gonzaga Bulldogs at Maples Pavilion at Stanford, the one-seed in the Rebels’ side of the bracket, on Friday.
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) March 13, 2023
Head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said her team is joyful for the opportunity to compete for a national championship once again.
“[I am] just really grateful to have this opportunity again to represent the state of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi in the NCAA Tournament, which I think is a special time for all student athletes. Our players make a lot of sacrifices, and our staff does, and this is our reward.”
Coach Yo at her Selection Sunday press conference
The tournament berth comes after the program’s second 20-win season in a row and tying a program record with 11 SEC wins. This is also the first time since 2004 and 2005 that the program has reached back-to-back tournaments.
Coach Yo said making history was the reason why she decided to come to Ole Miss, and the atmosphere at the SJB Pavilion for the selection show was a sign of the love the Oxford community has for her team.
“Tonight, the Oxford community again shows up. It was just a great experience for our team.”
In last year’s NCAA Tournament, Coach Yo’s Rebels lost in the first round as a seven-seed to the 10-seed South Dakota Coyotes, 75-61. She said the experience gained from that game will help her team heading into this year’s tournament.
“Last year, we were just glad to be there,” McPhee-McCuin said.
“We were incredibly excited and immature as far as the way our approach was. I know I won’t have to talk to my team about respecting their opponent. Gonzaga beat Tennessee earlier in the year. Lisa is a great coach. That’s a historic program…We are going to treat this as a complete business trip.”
Coach Yo on the difference between this year and last
A look at Gonzaga
The Gonzaga Bulldogs finished with a 28-4 overall record during the 2022-23 season, including their conference tournament, while landing at No. 16 in the final AP Poll before the tournament. They faced one SEC opponent during the regular season, which was a one-point win over Tennessee in November.
Coach Yo spoke to the success of Gonzaga’s offense, which shot 45% from the field and 41.5% from three during the regular season, and her team’s need to slow them down.
“They have an experienced roster,” McPhee-McCuin said. “That is going to be a big challenge for us. Obviously, y’all know that we want to defend the three-point line. They have about 14.6 assists per game, so we are going to have to try and disrupt that.
Coach Yo also mentioned that this Gonzaga team is loaded with tournament experience, having been to the Big Dance for six consecutive seasons.
All-SEC guard Angel Baker, who led the Rebels with 23 points in last year’s first round matchup, said that the team’s tournament experience from last season will help with their matchup with Gonzaga.
“Last year, Coach Yo asked the team how many people had been to the tournament, and I think about three hands went up,” Baker said. “This year, she asked, and it is maybe eight or nine people. Our experience and knowing what to expect will be better this year.”
Guard Myah Taylor, who experienced two tournaments, one of which including a run to the National Championship game with Mississippi State, said she is excited to compete in the tournament again and face Gonzaga.
“The coaches are going to go back and break down film and have us ready,” Taylor said. “We are going to stay in the gym, focus on us, and be ready to play.”
The Rebels will begin their run in the NCAA Tournament this Friday, March 17, from Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, California. Tipoff time is at approximately 9:00 p.m. CT. TV schedules have yet to be announced by the NCAA, so stay tuned for updates.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Trevor is a senior at Ole Miss pursuing a degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Sports Communication and Promotion. He has previous experience covering sports for another site, including a variety of Ole Miss sports. Growing up in New Orleans, La., he has the Pelicans and Saints running through his blood. He also grew up in an LSU family, but his love for Ole Miss continues to grow. Trevor hopes to cover sports back in his hometown after college. Laissez les bons temps rouler!