Rebels to end ‘tough’ January against Mizzou

Published 6:03 am Sunday, January 31, 2016

It has been one of the most grueling months in Matt Insell’s coaching career, and he still has one more ranked opponent to play before he can flip the calendar to February.

The Ole Miss women’s basketball team will host No. 22 Missouri today at the Pavilion (4 p.m., SEC Network).

Today’s game ends a string of five straight against top-25 opponents. The Rebels (10-10, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) are currently 1-3 during this stretch after defeating then-No. 9 Kentucky on Jan. 21 and most recently falling to No. 2 South Carolina on the road on Thursday.

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“I’ve been in this league for eight years, won a championship in this league, and I’ve never seen a stretch this tough for a team, any team,” Insell said. “If we can find a way to get a win (today), then you are 2-3 coming out of that. That’d be a pretty good five-game stretch.”

Ole Miss is coming off the loss to the undefeated Gamecocks but also saw Shandricka Sessom have one of her best games, scoring 26 points. It was the most points South Carolina has allowed one player to score against it all season.

“I think (South Carolina’s) Tiffany Mitchell may be the best defensive player in our league, and she guarded Shandrika and Shandricka had 26 points,” Insell said. “She played outstanding on the road in a hostile environment. She made shot after shot to keep us in it. I think she’s starting to come into her own.”

The confidence level is still high for Insell and his team as Missouri (17-4, 4-4) is a team that he views as a good matchup for them. It is similar to the way he felt entering the Kentucky game.

Defense needed
The Tigers, who are coming off a win at LSU on Thursday, are led by freshman Sophia Cunningham, who is averaging 13.3 points per game. Jordan Frericks and Cierra Porter are also in double figures with 12 and 10.6 points per game, respectively. Frericks is pulling down eight rebounds a game with Cunningham and Porter following close behind with 5.2 and 5.1 boards a game, respectively.

“They’re different than Kentucky. They run a lot more sets,” Insell said of Missouri. “The same feelings in terms of matching up, yes. I don’t think they overpower us in the paint. We should be able to rebound really well against them. One thing about Missouri is they are a very smart basketball team. We’ve got to stay disciplined defensively.”