Ole Miss bounces back against Auburn and wins a close one 63-59 after a two game home losing streak.
Ole Miss was led by Shandricka Sessom, and held off the visiting Auburn Tigers on Thursday night in a game that came down to the wire. Ole Miss was in control for most of the game, taking the lead early with Sessom having nine of the team’s first 11 points, and at one point having 26 of the team’s 40 points.
Sessom could not be stopped through three quarters, scoring 26 points while shooting 10-16 from the field including an impressive 6-9 from three point range. In the fourth quarter the Tigers began to show her a lot of attention on the defensive end, sending double and triple teams at her to try and slow her down. She failed to score in the fourth, but contributed by grabbing three boards and notching three assists as well.
“Obviously Sessom had an unbelievable game,” said Coach Matt Insell. “I was real proud of her, she works extremely hard.”
The Rebels played well defensively in the first quarter, limiting Auburn to a mere 3-13 from the field and found themselves leading by four. Taylor Manuel was a big reason for that, adding a block and a steal in the first.
Although the Rebels forced six Auburn turnovers, the Tigers rallied back in the second quarter behind Jessica Jones’ six points and two blocks to tie the game at 26 by halftime, despite Ole Miss leading for a total of 18 minutes in the half.
“I made a dumb mistake of going zone the last two possessions of the first half which gave them a wide open three and a putback,” said Insell. “We made a couple of minor adjustments to our press break because we had eight turnovers, six of which were in the second quarter”
Auburn’s full-court press defense was a problem for the Rebels in the game; Ole Miss had trouble advancing the ball up the court at times and turned it over on multiple possessions.
“They’re running two or three at you, they cut lanes and do a good job at it,” said Insell. “They’re one of the toughest styles to play against in our league, there is really no answer to play against it, you just gotta be real tough.”
Turnover troubles continued in the third quarter with Auburn forcing seven Ole Miss turnovers. However, the Rebels managed to win the quarter by six. Sessom dominated in the third, scoring 12 of her 26 while going 4-5 from three. The Rebels held a 44-38 lead going into the fourth.
In the fourth the Auburn defense focused in on Sessom, forcing other players to step up down the stretch. She also fouled out with three minutes remaining which really put the pressure on the rest of the team.
“I’ve seen Auburn down 18 points with four minutes to go in the game and come back and win the game, a lead is never safe with them the way they play,” said Insell.
Taylor Manuel and Alissa Alston were up to the task, each finishing with 13 and 14 points respectively. Although Alston only went 1-4 from the field, she hit 12-14 free throws, most of which were in crunch time.
“It don’t show up on the stat sheet how great of a game Alissa Alston, Shequila Joseph, and Erika Sisk had,” said Insell. “Those kids battled their butt off, Taylor Manuel, all of those kids that played battled their butt off and I couldn’t be more proud of the effort.”
In the last three minutes Alissa Alston made eight out of her 10 free throws, including sinking a pair that extended the lead to four after Auburn hit a desperation three to cut the lead to two with seven seconds remaining, essentially ending the game.
“It was a must win, I think it was a must win for both teams,” said Insell.
The win puts the Rebels at 5-8 in SEC play with three to go, their next game is at Vanderbilt on Sunday.
“We gotta get to 8-8 in the league to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament,” said Insell. “That’s the mark in women’s basketball in this league.”