OXFORD, MS (WLBT) - Ole Miss women’s basketball got off to a hot start and led at halftime, but a third quarter run by No. 20 Texas A&M proved too much to overcome as the Rebels fell, 72-60, to the Aggies at The Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought that was a valiant effort for my group,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “There are still a lot of growing pains. When you get to February, it is all about resilience, toughness and grit. When Texas A&M needed it, they got it from some special players. I thought that was the difference in the game, but I also thought that there were some good things that we can build on for the future.”
The Rebels (8-15, 2-7 SEC) put up a tremendous fight in the first half, exchanging the lead 11 times whilst going toe-to-toe with the best shooting defense in the SEC in Texas A&M (18-4, 7-2 SEC). On top of forcing 11 first-half Aggie turnovers (eight in the first quarter), Ole Miss was able to shoot 40 percent from three against an Aggie defense that was yielding just 26.5 percent to opponents from three all season long (24.7 percent in SEC play). In that first half alone, Ole Miss shot 5-of-9 from three en route to a 37-34 halftime lead – four of which came from senior Shandricka Sessom (17 points, four rebounds, 5-of-7 3PT).
Ole Miss held Texas A&M without a three-pointer until the 3:20 mark of the fourth quarter, ultimately holding the Aggies 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. Texas A&M, however, was able to find its offensive success driving the ball and forcing contact down low, converting on 23-of-27 free throws and scoring 34 points in the paint. The Aggies opened the third quarter on a 13-2 run and didn’t look back, winning the quarter 18-6 before keeping the Rebels down double digits for nearly the entire fourth quarter.
The Rebels were able to hold Chennedy Carter scoreless for the first 13:27 of the contest, but the sophomore national player of the year candidate was able to use the foul line to perfection today, hitting 14-of-17 from the charity stripe to end up with 28 points. A&M also received strong outings from Kayla Wells (17 points), Ciera Johnson (13 points, eight rebounds) and N’dea Jones (seven points, 10 rebounds).
Sessom was the catalyst for the Rebel offense today, scoring 17 points for her 12th double-digit game of the season. She ended a season-high 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, improving on her standing in fourth all-time at Ole Miss in career three-pointers at 172.
Junior Jhileiya Dunlap had her best game in SEC play, scoring 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting – her first double-digit game since scoring 11 at Louisiana Tech on Dec. 15. She became the first Rebel to go perfect from the floor with at least five attempts this season. Senior La’Karis Salter contributed 12 points, five rebounds and four assists with a 3-of-8 clip from three.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, Texas A&M was able to hold senior and leading scorer Crystal Allen to just three points – all from the foul line, her first game this season without at least one field goal and one three-pointer. Allen ended up 3-of-6 from the charity stripe, ending her NCAA-leading streak at 47 consecutive conversions.
Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair, in his 34th season coaching and his 16th with the Aggies, had high praise for the effort out of the Rebels and for Coach Yo.
“I have known (Coach Yo) for a long time and wanted to hire her at one time,” Blair said. “When you coach that hard, it is going to rub off on your players. Because if not, you are not going to want to come into the dressing room and face that young lady. Ole Miss has a storied history of basketball here. It is going to take time to get it back. I had to start the same way. I was 9-18 my first year. You have to build. You have to recruit. You build your fan base, you go out into the community, you talk, you do all the little things.”
Ole Miss hits the road again this Thursday night for a conference matchup at South Carolina, which is currently ranked No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the Coaches poll.