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SEASON SAVER: Joseph’s career night helps Rebels upset No. 9 UK

Ole Miss women’s basketball coach Matt Insell felt good about his team’s chances against No. 9 Kentucky on Wednesday morning.

Thursday evening, everyone saw why.

The Rebels used a barrage of 3-pointers and a quick start to hold off a rally, downing Kentucky 73-65 for their first win inside the Pavilion at Ole Miss. It was a rare win over a top-10 program as it was the first since Ole Miss defeated then No.10-ranked Kentucky last season on Feb. 23.

“What a great win for our program, to get a win over a top-10 team,” Insell said. “It just speaks volumes of where we’re going with the process of what we’re doing with the program and how we’re taking it toward the top of this league.”

The win snaps a four-game Southeastern Conference losing streak for Ole Miss (10-9, 2-4 SEC), which had been shooting poorly during the skid.

It was a different story Thursday as the Rebels came out firing, shooting 6 of 15 from 3-point range in the first half.

Shequila Joseph contributed the most, shooting 5 of 7 from 3-point range with three of those coming in the first 20 minutes. The London native led Ole Miss with 21 points, tying her career best.

“I felt good at my shootaround this morning,” Joseph said. “My position coach was telling me to follow through, and that’s what I did today and my shots were falling.”

Another reason Insell was confident heading into Thursday’s contest was the way his team matched up with the Wildcats (14-3, 3-3). Once again, he was proven correct as Ole Miss’ once-stout defense returned, holding Kentucky to 65 points after allowing opponents to average more than 80 points during the losing skid.

The Rebels caused 21 turnovers and scored 22 points off of them along with notching seven steals.

“We disrupted Kentucky all night,” Insell said. “We did a great job of disrupting them offensively, getting them out of their sets and making them play one-on-one basketball. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re a great defensive team.”

It was not smooth sailing all night as Kentucky showed why it is one of the best teams in the country, mounting several mini-rallies in the second half.

Ole Miss was up 59-47 before the Wildcats cut it down to a four-point lead with 5:27 left in the game. The Rebels responded with a run of their own with Shandricka Sessom capping it with an old-school three-point play to make it a 64-57 lead with three minutes left.

“I think we were forcing shots,” Joseph said. “I realized I’m the oldest and I needed to take control of the team. We don’t need to force shots and we had this lead. So time was on our side, and we just took our time and made easy shots.”

Sessom scored 14 points while A’Queen Hayes chipped in 14 points as well.

Future addition

Earlier in the day, it was rumored Insell had secured a future piece to his team in the form of former Kentucky and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Chrishae Rowe.

Insell confirmed the news, stating Rowe has indeed signed with Ole Miss and will begin classes when the spring semester starts Monday.

“At the end of the day, (Rowe) has a pencil to write her future,” Insell said. “She’s got to finish her future here. I’m excited about her joining us. She’s another player that we can add to our program that’s going to help us. She’s going to have a clean slate when she walks on this campus on Monday, and she’s excited about that.”

Rowe, who spent her first season at Oregon, has 1.5 years of eligibility left and will be able to play for the Rebels beginning in December. She never played a game at Kentucky before being dismissed along with three other Wildcat players on Oct. 15 for what was labeled as a “failure to uphold standards of the program,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said in a statement.

Rowe led Oregon, averaging 21.6 points per game two seasons ago, and was one of the nation’s leading scorers among freshmen.