Ole Miss women drop SEC opener in slugfest with Georgia

Published 8:37 pm Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Ole Miss women’s basketball team is playing better, particularly on the defensive end, but right now that’s just not translating to wins.

Ole Miss (7-7) hung right with the Georgia Lady Bulldogs (10-4) for three quarters on Wednesday night in the team’s SEC opener, eventually falling late 58-51.

“It was a tough one tonight,” head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “We had three keys to this game: boxing out and rebounding, play hard and leaving it all out on the floor, and positive touches and body language. We hit those three keys tonight. There’s a lot we can learn from. I call this the crockpot season. We just have to continue to fight and be gritty and build towards what we want.”

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Ole Miss got off to one of their best starts of the season in a first quarter that was marked by runs from both teams. The Rebels jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the opening two minutes of play before Georgia bounced back with 13 straight points of their own. The Bulldogs threw their jab, Ole Miss had another counter punch, scoring eight more unanswered to end the first quarter with a 15-14 lead.

The second quarter was more balanced, with neither team gaining more than a five-point cushion. Yet again, it was Ole Miss rallying from down to take a 28-27 lead into halftime.

Defense kept the Rebels alive for much of the game, particularly the second half. Shots were simply not falling for good stretches of the game, as Ole Miss shot just 25 percent of the field in the second half. The teams combined for just 21 points in the third quarter.

However, as things came down the stretch, it was the more experienced Georgia team pulling away late. The game went into the fourth quarter with the Bulldogs holding a two point lead, but closed the game by scoring 19 fourth quarter points in the 58-51 win.

The problem with Ole Miss on the night was simple – the shots just didn’t fall. The ball moved better than it has this season for stretches, but they just were not hitting shots. Ole Miss shot just 33 percent from the field in the game, and 30 percent from three. Ultimately, it was an ugly game as a whole on the offensive end for both teams.

“A lot of it is conditioning,” Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “We played six or seven girls and they, how many did they play? They played their whole bench, twelve or thirteen players. We just got tired. Our players played so hard. We just have to learn through it. Because if we had played like this all the time in the non-conference, we wouldn’t be 7-7. But now that we decided to play hard, we have to get ourselves better conditioned. And the only way to do that is by consistently doing it.”

Regardless, the game comes with optimism. Georgia, now 10-4, entered the day as the nation’s No. 64 ranked team by RPI. Ole Miss was just 296 going into the night. For the Rebels to battle late with a team that, to this point in the year, has simply played better basketball than them, should be encouraging.

Valerie Nesbitt and Deja Cage led the Rebels offensively with 14 and 15 points, respectively.

Now 0-1 in SEC play and 7-7 on the season, the Rebels return to action again this coming Monday with a road trip to Texas A&M. They don’t return home until next Thursday against No. 22 Tennessee.