BLOG — Ole Miss’ women’s basketball team cut a 10-point deficit to single digits in the final minutes but couldn’t get enough stops on the defensive end, falling to Missouri 85-76 Thursday night at C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum in its Southeastern Conference opener.
The Lady Rebels, who dropped their home league opener for just the fourth time in the last 11 years, were led by forward Shequila Joseph. The freshman from London, England, who averaged 5.7 points per game coming in, poured in a career-high 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Guards Valencia McFarland and Diara Moore finished with 14 points apiece while fellow guard Gracie Frizzell had 10.
Ole Miss overcame a sluggish start to reach the 70-point mark for the 14th time in 15 games, but the Lady Rebels had no answer for Missouri’s long-range accuracy. The Lady Tigers, who began the night as the SEC’s third-best 3-point shooting team (38.3 percent), hit their first three trey balls and didn’t cool off much the rest of the way, torching the league’s best team at defending the 3-pointer for a 15-for-24 performance from beyond the arc.
“All credit to Missouri. They did what they do,” Ole Miss coach Matt Insell said. “They make a lot of 3s. They’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. We focused on it all week on how to guard that, and we let them go 15 of 24 from the 3-point line. You’re not going to win if you let somebody do 15 of 24 from the 3-point line.”
Bri Kulas paced Missouri (12-2 overall, 1-0 SEC) with a game-high 26 points, finishing 7 of 18 from the field. Morgan Stock went 5-for-9 from long range for 15 of her 20 points while Morgan Eye also made five 3-pointers as part of a 17-point effort.
The Lady Rebels hit just three of their first 23 attempts from the floor and shot just 26 percent in the opening 20 minutes but managed to stay close using some extended defensive pressure and second-chance points to trail 34-30 at the break. Ole Miss (9-6, 0-1) hit its first three 3-pointers coming out of the locker room, the last coming from Frizzell, to take only its second lead of the game at 42-41 with 17:13 remaining. Missouri answered with a 3 from Stock to regain the lead, and the Lady Tigers eventually stretched the advantage to 72-62 with 6:43 left.
Joseph did her best to keep the Lady Rebels within striking distance, scoring 14 of her points in the final 20 minutes to highlight a second half that saw Ole Miss knock down its shots at a 47-percent clip. Her fourth and final 3 cut Missouri’s lead to 78-72 with 2:46 left, and a layup from Tia Faleru on Ole Miss’ next possession got the Lady Rebels even closer.
But the Lady Tigers rebounded a couple of their own misses on their next trip down the floor, and Maddie Stock eventually got free in the corner for a 3 to push Missouri’s lead to 81-74 with less than a minute remaining.
“We talk to them all the time,” Insell said. “It takes all five of you rebounding, and we didn’t do that in the last two minutes.”
See Friday’s edition of the EAGLE for complete coverage of tonight’s game. (January 3, 2014)