Ole Miss women’s basketball looks to regain defensive form at Auburn

Published 6:01 am Sunday, January 8, 2017

The number was surprising, but Ole Miss women’s basketball coach Matt Insell isn’t panicking just yet.

The Rebels had their six-game winning streak snapped in a 90-80 loss at Alabama on Thursday, an eye-popping tally put up against Insell’s team. It’s by far the most points allowed this season by the Rebels, who are 10th nationally in scoring defense, and the most surrendered by Ole Miss since last November.

Ole Miss (12-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) will try to get back to its old self defensively when the Rebels take on Auburn today at Auburn Arena, continuing the Rebels’ stretch of four road trips in five games. Insell doesn’t think getting things corrected on that end of the floor is all that complicated.

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“It wasn’t a breakdown as much as it was touch fouls,” said Insell, whose team was whistled for a whopping 41 fouls Thursday. “We got in a game where they were calling a lot of hand checks, and we didn’t adjust very well as a team in-game in terms of adjusting to how the game was being called. We’ve been playing physical for a majority of they year and we ran into a situation where they wouldn’t allow us to play physical.”

The Rebels spent much of Friday’s practice in Auburn focusing on their own defensive tweaks, but they’ll have to be equally as aware on offense against the Tigers (11-5, 1-1), who use their pressurized defense to create instant offense. Auburn is forcing more than 24 turnovers a game and is sixth nationally with a plus-8.6 turnover margin.

Senior guard Katie Frerking leads the SEC in steals (3.2 per game) while pairing with fellow senior Brandy Montgomery to give the Tigers a lethal 1-2 scoring punch in the backcourt at more than 32 combined points per game.

“They’ve got two of the best guards in our league,” Insell said. “They press every possession make or miss. They’re going to get into a 1-2-2 press. It causes a lot of havoc. They’re one of the best teams in the country in terms of turning teams over. … It’s a game that if we get out there and turn the ball over 25 times, we’re going to get beat.”

That puts the onus on the Rebels’ guard trio of Erika Sisk, Shandricka Sessom and Madinah Muhammad to protect the ball and execute the offense in the halfcourt to get the pace more in Ole Miss’ favor, Insell said, but beating an NCAA Tournament team from a season ago on the road has to start on the defensive end for an Ole Miss team that had five players foul out against Alabama.

“It caught up with us, but we came out (Friday) and adjusted in practice and had a good day of practice,” Insell said. “I feel like we fixed our problems there in man-to-man and we’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”