OXFORD, MS (WLBT) - Crystal Allen scored 30 points, but the Ole Miss women’s basketball team wrapped up its regular season with an 81-56 loss to Tennessee at the Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.
“Obviously, I am disappointed with our start,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “On a high note, I am happy that we won the fourth quarter. Tennessee, in my opinion, is the most talented team in the SEC. I know their record doesn’t show it, but that has nothing to do with who they are. They are a team full of All-Americans that play at a high level, as you can see. We fought, and hopefully we can put that kind of fight into our game vs. Florida on Wednesday.”
Ole Miss and the Lady Vols both came out of the gates hard, trading runs in the first quarter before Tennessee turned on the jets and ended the frame with a 23-13 lead. The Lady Vols, who were coming off their first loss ever to Vanderbilt at home on Feb. 28, used a highly efficient offense and a swarming defense to clip off what was at one point a 33-6 run in the first half to separate. Tennessee (18-11, 7-9 SEC) ended the day shooting 51.8 percent overall with 25 assists on 29 made field goals, while also turning 15 Rebel turnovers into 22 points and 14 points on the fastbreak.
The Rebels didn’t go quietly, though, as Ole Miss won the fourth quarter against the Lady Vol starters, 23-17. Leading the charge yet again was senior Crystal Allen in her final game in The Pavilion. Allen, the SEC’s third-leading scorer, ended with an SEC season-high 30 points (20 coming in the second half) on 10-of-22 shooting (3-of-7 from three, 7-of-9 from the free throw line), her second career 30-point game – both coming during her one season as a Rebel. Her 549 points scored this year (18.3 PPG) makes her the first Rebel to score 500 points in a season since Bianca Thomas scored 670 in 2009-10.
Additionally, Gabby Crawford had the best game of her young career against the Lady Vols. The freshman set career-highs in both points (16) and rebounds (9). Coming into the game, she had never reached double-digit scoring.
“We definitely can build on that (Gabby’s performance) for the future,” McPhee-McCuin said. “Our freshmen have been playing a lot of minutes. I was proud of Crystal because she stayed in it and didn’t break. I thought that she played her heart out. I felt like Gabby and the other young pups wanted to give her their all.”
Prior to tipoff, Ole Miss honored the four Rebel seniors playing in their last home game in an Ole Miss uniform: Allen, Cecilia Muhate, La’Karis Salter and Shandricka Sessom. Allen and Salter are fifth-year graduate transfers, but Muhate and Sessom have been staples of the Rebel women’s basketball team their entire careers. All four were members of the starting lineup today and were instrumental pieces for the Rebels this season.
“The reason why I stand up and coach whether we’re down 30 or up three is because of my loyalty to them,” McPhee-McCuin said. “It’s the only way I can show gratitude and appreciation to them for giving me a chance. I had three players when I came. We were able to form a team, and I couldn’t do it without them. That’s why I give them everything that I have so that they could have a good experience. I know we didn’t win a lot of games, but I’m confident that they feel like they had a positive experience here for this short time.”
Ole Miss (9-21, 3-13 SEC) now looks ahead to the SEC Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina this week. The No. 12 seed Rebels will face off against No. 13 seed Florida (7-22, 3-13 SEC) on Wednesday morning (March 6) at 10 a.m. CT on SEC Network.
Ole Miss and Florida previously met on Jan. 20, with the Rebels prevailing, 76-66, in Oxford. The Rebels and Gators have met up in the SEC Tournament just once prior to this coming Wednesday, a 48-43 Rebel victory in the first round last year in Nashville.