Women’s basketball hopes to build on strong start to season

Posted on Dec 1 2017 - 7:56am by Maggie Crouch

With a combined eight regular-season, exhibition and tournament games under its belt, the Ole Miss women’s basketball team hit the ground running.

Though the Rebels have not played against any conference teams yet, head coach Matt Insell has confidence in his team’s ability and energy.

“I’m more relaxed this year than I’ve ever been with this team because I don’t really have to talk to them about energy,” Insell said during a press conference at the beginning of the season. “I don’t have to talk to them about enthusiasm. They come to work.”

The team has impressed thus far, jumping out to an overall record of 6-1 and beating probable NCAA Tournament team Temple.

Upcoming road games will certainly test the team, though. Last year, the Rebels posted an 15-4 home record but went just 1-8 on the road.

This season, the Rebels will travel the SEC for matches against Texas A&M, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. If history has any bearing on the Rebels’ current endeavors, these games will test the Rebels. The SEC’s talent, combined with strong home-court advantages across the region, could prove formidable.

But despite the long road ahead, Insell remains optimistic about the team’s potential and the growth since last season.

“We have more depth than we had last year,” senior guard Shandricka Sessom said. “We have more players who can come off the bench. That is the difference from last year. We have freshmen coming, learning fast and getting the job done.”

In addition to conference games, Ole Miss has scheduled a number of out-of-conference games to prepare the team. It will play three consecutive games in Oxford against Arkansas State, South Alabama and Southern Mississippi before heading to the West Coast for matchups with Oregon and Portland State.

Junior guard Madinah Muhammad currently leads the team in points, accumulating 139 over her eight games. Sessom follows with 106 points, and junior guard Alissa Alston trails in third with 73 points.

For Sessom, though, the future of her season depends on the fate of a knee injury that occurred against Middle Tennessee on Wednesday night.

“I feel bad for her. She’s such a great kid. She’s in great spirits. She’s smiling,” Insell said. “We’ve got a lot of injuries right now, but it’s next man up. We’ve got players playing in positions they’ve never played before right now, but you tell them what do to do and they do it.”

With Sessom benched most of the game, the remaining players found a way to rally and win, a promising signal for the rest of the season, with or without Sessom on the court. The Rebels will need to remain flexible with their personnel choices if they hope to extend their winning streak into conference play.

The Ole Miss Rebels play their next game at home Saturday against Arkansas State. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. at The Pavilion.