Ole Miss pounds Gonzaga, Rebs set to face Stanford in second-round of NCAA tournament
STANFORD – The eight-seed Ole Miss women’s basketball team won its first tournament game in the Coach Yo era Friday night with an emphatic 71-48 victory over the nine-seed Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The win marks the first time a Rebel team has advanced to the Round of 32 since advancing to the Elite Eight in 2007. They will face the one-seed Stanford Cardinal this Sunday in the second round.
Rebels start fast
The first half was reminiscent of the regular season Rebels, showcasing their defensive prowess. They held Gonzaga, the top-ranked three-point shooting team in the country, to 0-7 from three-point range and 31% shooting overall.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss used Gonzaga’s greatest strength against them. The Rebels, who had shot 29% from three in the regular season, went 4-11 from three in the first half, led by three-point ace Snudda Collins with three made-shots from downtown. The junior forward led Ole Miss in scoring in the first half with 10 points.
“A heat check in order for number 5, Snudda Collins…” pic.twitter.com/IFuh6ySgpZ
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) March 18, 2023
Overall, the Rebels shot 39% from the field in the first half, while outscoring the Bulldogs 10-6 in second-chance points and 12-2 off the bench.
Coach Yo’s squad finished the first half on a 17-5 run to head into the halftime break with a 13-point lead, 34-21. The Rebs were undefeated in the regular season (14-0) when leading by double-digits at halftime.
The Ole Miss domination continued in the second half, as the Rebels shot 53% in the third quarter and extended their lead to 28 heading into the fourth quarter. They were outscored in the fourth quarter, 17-12, but the game was well out of reach by then.
Ole Miss led for all but 22 seconds of the game in the dominating win over the WCC regular season champions.
Collins led the scoring for the Rebels with 15 points, with all but 2 of her points coming from either the three-point line or the free throw line.
Guard Angel Baker and forward Madison Scott finished with 11 points apiece. Scott recorded another double-double with 10 rebounds.
The Ole Miss defense held the nation’s best three-point shooting team, which shot 42% from downtown during the regular season, to 1-17 (6%) from beyond the arc. They also held the Bulldogs to 29% from the field and 24 points below their per game scoring average.
Head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said the defensive performance tonight represented the identity of her team this year and her program.
“That is who we are,” McPhee-McCuin said postgame. “Usually, when we defend at a high level, we can score a lot. We defend so that we can score. We did that, and it was fun to watch.”
Get down in that defensive stance! #WeDefend pic.twitter.com/4GaDUlrrwS
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) March 18, 2023
Coach Yo said that the tournament is no time to have an identity crisis, so she was proud that her team stuck to what made them successful throughout the season, which was defense.
“It is what we expect. We are not cocky. It is who we are.”
Coach Yo on the Rebels’ defense
The mentality of the season for the Rebels, especially during SEC play, was to play the underdog role, and Coach Yo said that the circumstances of the game, regardless of seeding, allowed them to play that role again.
“I know that we were the eight seed, but they flew us out to the west coast and had us play a team that had to take an hour flight. We didn’t feel like the eight seed. As far as we are concerned, we feel like we have something to prove.”
Collins, who prior to the game was riding an 0-22 shooting stretch, said that she took the game personally to get out of the shooting slump.
“I knew that I have to score for the team,” Collins said. “Tonight, I came in with a different mindset and was ready to just let it go.”
Coach Yo said that she has been in Collins’ ear about her shooting struggles, and her work at practice paid off against the Bulldogs.
“I am really proud of her,” McPhee-McCuin said. “I told Snudda that she needed to get back to the non-conference Snudda. The non-conference Snudda was scoring in multiple ways, not just three-point shooting. She was driving to the basket, rebounding, and-ones. Tonight, you were able to see that.”
The Rebels will now face one-seed Stanford, who currently holds a 29-5 record and finished ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll. Coach Yo said that her team took a step forward by winning a first-round tournament game, but Sunday’s matchup will be a great opportunity to exceed that.
“If we win on Sunday, then we are going to keep going. If we don’t, then we are going to celebrate the season. But, at the end of the day, we still made a forward step. I just believe in growing it organically in that way.”
She also said that the key to pulling the upset lies in her team’s defensive identity.
“Defense is the engine to our offense. That is what we intend to do on Sunday. We intend to guard. If we can do that, we feel like we will have success.”
The eight-seed Ole Miss Rebels and one-seed Stanford Cardinal will square off this Sunday at Maples Pavilion in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.
(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!