Rebels’ slide continues with loss to Auburn

Published 12:01 pm Friday, February 12, 2016

With six games left in the season, Thursday night’s matchup with Auburn was a must-win if the Ole Miss women’s basketball team wanted make any kind of noise down the stretch.

A win appeared to be within the Rebels’ grasp, but a blown 12-point lead, fueled by Auburn’s Katie Frerking’s 17 points, in the fourth quarter led to a 65-60 defeat at the hands of the Tigers.
The loss extended Ole Miss’ losing streak to five games.

“We had control of that game in the fourth quarter, and we really controlled the game for three quarters,” Ole Miss coach Matt Insell said. “We did not make the plays in the fourth quarter to win the game. We got every look we needed in the fourth quarter, and we got stops when we needed to get stops at times. Their go-to player won the game for them.”

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A combination of defense and a hot hand behind the 3-point line looked to be the winning recipe for Ole Miss (10-14, 2-9 Southeastern Conference). The Rebels caused Auburn (17-8, 7-5) to have 21 turnovers and scored 22 points off of them. They also recorded nine steals.

Ole Miss was also able to find a weakness in the Tigers’ defense, which would constantly leave someone open on the perimeter. The Rebels took advantage, shooting 8 of 29 from behind the line and 4 of 12 in the second half.

It was a game where Ole Miss could not coast to a win as multiple times it pulled out to a healthy lead only to have the Tigers manage to cut it down to single digits. The Rebels’ biggest lead was a 45-33 advantage with 5:43 left in the third quarter.

Auburn used a 24-10 run over the span of the third and fourth quarters to take a 57-55 lead with 6:38 left and was able to hold off the Rebels for the win. Ole Miss had a chance to force the game into overtime, but Erika Sisk’s 3-point attempt with seconds remaining was off the mark, hitting the back of the backboard.

“This is the big time man,” Insell said. “This is the SEC, not 4A, 5A, 6A Mississippi basketball. Not 1A, 2A, 3A Tennessee basketball. This is the SEC. I don’t care that you’re a freshman. I don’t care that you’re a sophomore. When you get open looks in the SEC, you make shots. We go on dry spells because we get open looks and we don’t put them down.”

Two Rebels reached double figures with sophomore guard A’Queen Hayes leading the way, tying Frerking’s total of 17 points, while Madinah Muhammad used three 3-pointers to score 11 points.

Junior Shequila Joseph and Shandricka Sessom added nine and eight points, respectively.

Auburn’s Tra’Cee Tanner had a game-high 19 points while Janiah McKay chipped in 12 points.

Ole Miss finishes up its two-game homestand Monday when the Rebels host No. 15 Texas A&M (6 p.m., SEC Network+).