Ole Miss women’s basketball ended its historic season with a loss in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship game to Rice University, 71-58, on Sunday afternoon. The Rebels were playing in a championship game of a postseason tournament for the first time in program history.
The Rebels had their hands full against 6-foot-9 center Nancy Mulkey from Rice University. Throughout the entire season, the Ole Miss team prided itself on having strong defense, but the Rebels struggled in this game. Mulkey totaled 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks against an Ole Miss defense, while her teammate Lauren Schwartz totaled 19 points and five assists.
Junior forward Shakira Austin was the only Rebel player to score double digits in this game with 25 points. She also shot 10 of 25.
The rest of the Ole Miss offense struggled, shooting 11 of 45 from the field. The Rebel defense was able to force 24 turnovers, scoring on all but one.
Rice’s players came into this championship game with a chip on their shoulders after being kept out of the NCAA tournament team with a 23-4 record. Making it to the tournament was not a rare sight for Rice University after they made it in 2019. The team came out strong and had a sixteen-point lead over Ole Miss heading into halftime.
The Rebels fought hard and were able to narrow the lead to four after a 10-0 drive in the fourth quarter. Rice pulled back ahead with a perfect free throw line percentage and the Mulkey-Schwartz duo.
“I am so proud of them, of what they’ve accomplished.” Ole Miss head coach Yolette McPhee-McCuin said. “I’m so excited about this program I could explode. This was a win for us and this program.”
The Rebels were able to finish their first winning season since 2016-2017, and they were able to do it with a very young team. In the championship game, five different freshmen collected minutes.
Ole Miss is not expecting to lose a single player from the roster ahead of this next season, and with every player returning, McPhee-McCuin has her sights set on next year and the big tournament.
“It’s encouraging, to say the least. We really needed this experience. We’re going to recruit hard.” McPhee-McCuin said. “We have some holes to fill that we will fill. I promise you that. If you want to place a bet, we’ll be a part of the 64 next year.”