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Ole Miss women’s season comes to close with WNIT loss to Grambling

Taylor Manuel scored a season-best, but it was not enough. In what might be considered a shock to some, Grambling defeated Ole Miss 78-75 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament at The Pavilion on Thursday night.

With the game tied 75 all, Grambling’s John’ea Thompson hit a layup with 11 seconds left. Ole Miss failed to get a shot off out of a timeout, ending their season with a record of 17-14. It is the longest the Rebels’ season has lasted since making it to the third round of the WNIT in 2015 before falling to Middle Tennessee State.

“My job as we move into the offseason is to figure out why we’re in the NIT and how can we make sure we’re not in it again,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell said. “That’s something I’ll be working on for a week in my head and on paper, making sure we’re not in this game again.”

This was Grambling’s first Southeastern Conference opponent of the season and only their third non-conference win of the season with the other two coming against Louisiana-Monroe and Southeastern Louisiana.

The speed and athleticism of the Tigers (19-14) rattled Ole Miss from the start. The Rebels took a quick 6-0 lead, but the Tigers responded with an 11-2 run and took the lead for the rest of the half. Grambling shot 6 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half, fueling a 45-33 lead at the break.

Jazmine Torian led Grambling with 23 points while Shakyla Hill and Monisha Neal each scored 17 points. Thompson finished with 10 points to put four Tigers in double figures.

“All credit to Grambling. They came out in the first half extremely motivated,” Insell said. “They played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We let them get going shooting the basketball. … I told our players we can’t let them get to doing that or they’ll play with a lot of emotion. They did a lot of that in the first half and that hurt us. Dug ourself a hole and we couldn’t get out of it.”

After shooting a cold 36 percent (7 of 19) from the floor in the first half, the Rebels came out firing in the third quarter. Ole Miss shot 67 percent (11 of 17), outscoring Grambling 28-19 in the third period to cut the Tigers’ lead to three. The hot offense in the third quarter was doused by a 40 percent (6 of 15) effort in the final 10 minutes. The Rebels shot 43 percent (31 of 71) for the game.

“I don’t really know,” Insell said when asked about his team’s poor shooting performance. “We gave them off a few days. We shot the ball extremely well in practice. … I think their legs went. I really do. They’re great shooters. They shoot it well. I think they just got tired.”

Ole Miss did not lead the game again until late in the fourth quarter when Shandricka Sessom hit a layup, putting the Rebels ahead 72-70 with 4:24 remaining. Sessom put Ole Miss in front again with a 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining, but Grambling responded with a 3 of their own to tie it at 75 at the 1:41 mark.

Manuel scored a game-high, and season-high, 28 points and was two rebounds shy of a double-double, pulling down eight boards. Sessom finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. In her final game as a Rebel, Oxford native Erika Sisk finished with five points, three rebounds and five assists.