The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, this week will be an opportunity to pad win totals for some and serve as a lifeline for others.
Teams like Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Kentucky are near locks for the upcoming NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. They may not have much to play for other than improving their seed for the big dance and possibly adding more hardware to their trophy cases. However, for teams like Ole Miss, this tournament is their only hope to live to play another day.
After a 9-21 campaign and a 3-13 mark in league play, Ole Miss will enter today’s SEC tournament as the No. 12 seed and will be one of four teams competing on day one. According to ESPN Bracketology, the only chance for the Rebels to enter the postseason is to claim the automatic bid by winning the tournament title Sunday. Ole Miss’s first step toward reaching that goal will be getting past a team it bested earlier in the year: the Florida Gators.
The Gators enter this tournament tied with the SEC’s worst record at 7-22. They ended a five-game losing skid this past Sunday with a win against Vanderbilt, the last seed in the tournament.
Ole Miss defeated Florida 76-66 in The Pavilion back in January thanks to a stellar shooting performance from the Rebels. Ole Miss shot 51 percent from the floor and had great showings from Shandricka Sessom, Crystal Allen and La’Karis Salter. Those three players combined for 51 points in the matchup.
Since that game, Ole Miss has lost 10 of its last 11 games. During that stretch, the Rebels have struggled to find consistency as a team and individually.
Allen is still among the SEC’s leading scorers but had outings where she couldn’t get shots in crucial moments because her team floundered around her. Sessom has done some of the same at times. Redshirt freshman Mimi Reid has stepped up as of late with two double-digit scoring nights over the past two weeks. They will all have to mesh together again against a team with a lot of guard production.
Funda Nakkasoglu leads the charge for the Gators with 16.7 points per game, making her sixth in the SEC. She is also shooting 46 percent from the floor and scored 21 points in her previous meeting with the Rebels. Delicia Washington is another guard scoring double figures, with 10.3 points per game. Washington is also the team’s leading rebounder, with 7.8 boards per game.
Look for the Rebels to repeat formulas similar to those they used in January. Expect them to get their guards involved early and often while getting Salter good looks to work with. Ole Miss will have to respond to momentum shifts more frequently than in previous outings where the team let that get the best of them. Defensively, expect some tight man-to-man because of Florida’s guard tandem.
The winner of this game will face No. 5-seeded Missouri on Thursday. Each game in this tournament leading up to the semifinal round will be televised on SEC Network.