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Ole Miss defeats Florida to advance in SEC Tourney, snaps 13-game losing skid

After 52 days Ole Miss is finally in the winner’s circle again.

The Rebels defeated Florida 48-43 in the first round of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville on Wednesday. It ended a 13-game losing streak — the longest in program history — that started on Jan. 11.

No. 14 seeds are now 2-4 overall in the SEC Tournament and Ole Miss (12-18) owns both victories (2014, 2018). The Rebels will face No. 6 seed Missouri in the second round at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Madinah Muhammad tied with Florida’s Haley Lorenzen with a game-high 14 points. Shelby Gibson scored 10 points and Alissa Alston scored eight points.

“It feels great,” Muhammad told SEC Network after the game. “We knew our defensive plan going into the game and we knew we had to lock up and that’s what we focused on. Our offense wasn’t going too well so we knew we were going to have to rely on our defense and that’s what we did.”

Ole Miss’ last win came on Jan. 7 against the Gators and was their only win in conference play during the regular season. In the rematch in Gainesville, Ole Miss blew a 13-point lead and lost 61-60 on Jan. 21.

The script was following closely to the latter game as Ole Miss once again had as large as a 13-point lead but the Gators began to cut into the deficit after the Rebels missed their final 10 shots in the third quarter. Wednesday was different from their previous 13 games with Ole Miss finally able to get crucial stops on the defensive end.

The Rebels and Gators each shot 28 percent from the field. The Rebel defense forced 20 Gator turnovers and scored 20 points off of them.

“For the first time in over a month we guarded today,” Ole Miss coach Matt Insell said on the SEC Network after the game. “I challenged them to defend and they guarded for the first time in over a month. I’m just so proud of them. I told them in the huddle to ‘just keep guarding. We ain’t scoring but they ain’t either so don’t worry about it.’”

The Rebel defense shutdown Florida’s best shooter on Wednesday. Funda Nakkasoglu averages about 12 shots a game and was held to seven attempts, making two of them and finished with 11 shots.

If Ole Miss wants to continue their season they must get past No. 14 Missouri and Sophie Cunningham. The Rebels faced the Tigers on Jan. 18 and lost 67-48. Cunningham scored 20 points.

“(Cunningham) is really, really good. We’re going to have to be really locked in to what we’re doing defensively,” Insell said. “It’s part of playing in the SEC. We’ll have something. We’ll figure something out.”