Ole Miss women cruise to victory, snap 14-game losing streak to Mississippi State

Published 5:15 pm Sunday, January 16, 2022

OXFORD, MISS — This one meant everything.

After 14 consecutive losses over an eight-year span, the Ole Miss women’s basketball team finally secured a win over arch-rival Mississippi State, cruising to an 86-71 victory.

“Whew, that’s been a long time coming,” said head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “I’ve been telling people this day would come. A lot of people believed me, some didn’t… we wanted to make a statement today and I thought we did.”

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The Rebels, (15-2, 3-1 SEC) who led by as much as 32 in the game, played suffocating defense while using their significant size advantage to get plenty of open looks at the rim. They scored 46 points in the paint, including 32 in the first half alone.

“We knew that we had a size advantage over Mississippi State, so to start the game I was pounding it inside because I knew that was our advantage,” McPhee-McCuin said.

Coach Yo’s squad dominated both ends of the floor throughout the game, forcing 17 turnovers while shooting 53% from the field as a team.

The Rebels played a three-quarter-court zone press that gave the Bulldogs trouble all afternoon, forcing turnovers and igniting their electric fast break attack.

“I was kind of surprised that they struggled with it, so that’s why I never came out of it,” McPhee-McCuin said. “We had the size advantage, we’re bigger and longer… I thought we were able to really take away vision and they couldn’t see the floor. So it did what it was supposed to do.”

Senior center Shakira Austin led the way for Ole Miss, posting her sixth double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Austin, who was named to both the Wooden Award and Naismith Award midseason watch lists, dominated on the low block, scoring 12 of her 21 points in the painted area.

Georgia transfer Donnetta Johnson was another key contributor, playing by far her best game in on Ole Miss uniform. The redshirt junior posted season highs in points (12), rebounds (10), assists (4), minutes (21) and field goals made (6).

The Rebels secured their first victory against Mississippi State since January 2014, when they defeated the Bulldogs 87-85 in an overtime thriller.

“I’m just really happy for our program, happy for everybody that has been a part of it. [This win] means a lot to Mississippians and I’ve learned that it means a lot to me,” said McPhee-McCuin.

Coach Yo said the win was a crucial step towards establishing legitimacy for a program that has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2007.

“I told the team that this was important game, not because of the rivalry, [but] because we have now established that when you play Ole Miss women’s basketball, it is an important game,” she said.

The Rebels secured a signature win for their tournament résumé against a Mississippi State team that has dominated the state for over a decade, establishing themselves as a contender in the SEC.

“I think we showed who’s the best right now, and that’s us. And we plan on doing that again when we go to Starkville,” said McPhee McCuin.

The Rebels will look to build on this momentum when they travel to College Station to take on Texas A&M on Thursday.