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TOO MUCH: Rebels fall to No. 3 S. Carolina, drop home finale

Ole Miss kept it close for nearly a half, teasing another upset to a top-25 team, but South Carolina proved why it is one of the best teams in the country.

The Rebels dropped their home finale, 66-45, to the No. 3 Gamecocks Thursday night at the Pavilion. The loss extended the Rebels’ losing skid to nine. They have lost 13 of their last 14 games.

“You better not quit, plain and simple,” Ole Miss coach Matt Insell said of his message to his team after its most recent loss. “We got a game on Sunday. I don’t care what our record is. … We’ve got to step up to the challenge. We’ve got the youngest team in this league, but we’ve got to step up to the challenge.”

Guard Medinah Muhammad did everything in her power to keep the game from getting away from Ole Miss (10-18, 2-13 Southeastern Conference) too quickly. In the first half, Muhammad had 14 of Ole Miss’ 19 points. She finished with a game-high 20 points and two rebounds.

South Carolina (27-1, 15-0) trailed a couple different times early in the half but eventually muscled its way to a comfortable 34-19 lead at the break.

“I just settled down and just took my time,” Muhammad said. “My teammates did a good job of getting me open. So I just took my time and made the shots.”

The Rebels opened up the second half with a 13-8 run, cutting South Carolina’s lead down to 10 before the Gamecocks pulled away for good late in the third quarter.

The Gamecocks were led by sophomore forward A’ja Wilson with 16 points. Alaina Coates added 11 points and had a game-high 14 rebounds.

“We really just kind of stayed within our system,” Wilson said. “It’s just kind of one of those nights. We just really stayed within it, taking what the defense gives us and kind of played off each other.”

More of the same
The shooting woes continued for Ole Miss, which went 14-for-63 (22.2 percent) from the field. The Rebels were successful from long range, hitting 10 of 17 (41.2 percent) from behind the 3-point line. Muhammad and Shandricka Sessom combined for seven 3-pointers.

The defense was there for the Rebels again, causing 29 South Carolina turnovers, but Ole Miss could only score 27 points off them. South Carolina’s dominance came in the paint where the Gamecocks outscored the Rebels 40-8.

“Story of our season right there,” Insell said of the shooting struggles. “Just look at the box score. Look at the shooting percentages. That sums up our season right now. We get great shots, and we don’t make them. That’s something that we’ve got to do a better job at.”

Ole Miss concludes its regular season on the road at Arkansas on Sunday before heading to Jacksonville, Florida, for the SEC Tournament beginning March 2.