Rebels begin ‘tough’ stretch at No. 15 Aggies

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, January 14, 2016

Five games. Five ranked opponents.

That is what awaits the Ole Miss women’s basketball team beginning tonight in College Station, Texas against No. 15 Texas A&M (8 p.m., SECN+).

Mad Max may have had an easier journey down Fury Road than what the Rebels have in front of them.

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Four of those five games involve top-15 opponents. Along with A&M tonight, the rest of January includes matchups at No. 7 Mississippi State on Monday, No. 9 Kentucky on Jan. 21, at No. 2 South Carolina on Jan. 28 and at home against No. 24 Missouri on Jan. 31.

“You can’t do anything about it, it’s the SEC,” Ole Miss coach Matt Insell said. “This is what it is. We’re in some random cycle that was put together. I don’t know how long this cycle has been going. … The cycle, you eventually think is going to play in your favor. We get South Carolina twice, which is No. 2 in the nation. We get A&M twice, which is ranked in the top 15 in the nation. We get State twice, which is ranked top 10 in the nation. There is nowhere to breathe, there is nowhere to go. Once you play someone you match up well with, you are so beaten down because it’s every night.”

Golden opportunity
After a sluggish start to Southeastern Conference play, the Rebels (9-7, 1-2 SEC) have to put that behind them and focus on the monumental challenge that lies in front of them. A team that was picked to finish in the middle of the conference this season has a chance to make up a lot of ground if the Rebels can view this stretch more as an opportunity than a negative.

“We’ve got to go on the road and we’ve got to get a win,” Insell said. “Are we playing a bunch of ranked opponents? Yeah, we are. It’s rough.  We’re going to beat somebody here in the next week or so and everybody’s going to be like, ‘Oh, wow,’ and all of a sudden we’re going to roll off some.”

Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M team (12-4, 2-1) that is coming off a 53-35 loss at LSU on Sunday. The Aggies were slow to start, scoring only four points in the first quarter against a Tiger team that dominated the Rebels a week ago in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

It should be easy for Ole Miss to remember who to keep a player on at all times as both of the Aggies’ key players are named Courtney. Courtney Walker and Courtney Williams are pacing the Texas A&M offense. Walker leads the team with 17.6 points per game while Williams is right behind with 13.6 points a game. Khaalia Hillsman is the main rebounder, snagging nearly six boards per game.

The offense can come from anywhere on the bench as 10 Aggies are averaging at least two points.

Shandricka Sessom is leading Ole Miss with 16.4 points a game, ranking fifth in the SEC, and has reached double figures in 14 of the first 16 games this season. Oxford native Erika Sisk has started to heat up with 11.4 points a game and has hit double figures in four of her last six games, including a season-high 23 points against McNeese State on Dec. 19.