The 2018-19 Ole Miss women’s basketball season was one to be forgotten. The team finished with a 9-22 overall record and ended the season on a six-game losing streak.
The team is currently predicted to finish second to last in the SEC, but there is a quiet confidence building within the program.
Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, known affectionately to the team as “Coach Yo,” had a tough task in front of her during her first year, as the Rebels were picked to finish last in the SEC. They finished near the bottom of the conference but improved their SEC win total from the previous year by two games and fought for an impressive win over No. 16 Kentucky in January.
Most of the team’s struggles last year were on the road, where they only achieved one win for the season. However, the home results were much more encouraging, with almost 90% of team wins happening in Oxford. Even a slight improvement on the road, as is expected this year, would be huge for the team’s success this year.
Coach Yo, now in her second year at Ole Miss, has the Rebels at 1-0 after a 72-53 win over Mississippi Valley State in The Pavilion on Tuesday.
Junior guard Deja Cage, who is coming out of a redshirt season after transferring from DePaul, registered a career-high 16 points on 70% shooting in her Ole Miss debut. Sophomore guard Taylor Smith led the way with 18 points, which doubled her previous career high.
Though the team struggled with turnovers, giving up possession 19 times, the Rebels still dominated the court for long stretches of the game, including the second quarter where they outscored the Devilettes 21-6.
The Rebels will face a brutally competitive conference ladder and must drastically reduce their turnovers.
The Rebels will remain at home against ULM on Nov. 10 and against New Orleans on Nov. 15. These games represent an opportunity to start the season 3-0 as ULM finished near the bottom of the Sun Belt last year, and New Orleans was middle-of-the-pack in the Southland Conference.
The development of talented newcomers freshman Sarah Dumitrescu and junior transfer Valerie Nesbitt and the continued development of Taylor Smith represent a major spot for growth on the team.
Three-point specialist Torri Lewis will also be invaluable as the team faces off against future SEC opponents with strong defense.
Despite initial optimism, the reality is that we will know much more about the team after the Daytona Beach Invitational in late November.
This year will undoubtedly be full of struggles and frustrations, but Coach Yo really seems to be building something good here and doing it the right way. A team motto and Twitter bio this year, “No Ceilings,” is indicative of fierce team spirit.