OXFORD, Miss. - Despite a 16-day hiatus, a shorthanded Ole Miss women’s basketball squad put together a valiant effort but could not hang on as it fell to LSU, 77-69, in overtime Monday.
The Rebels (6-1, 0-1 SEC) dropped their first game of the season in heartbreaking fashion to the Tigers (4-4, 2-0 SEC), who capitalized on a drained Ole Miss bench of just eight student-athletes with a late game charge to force OT, in which they sealed victory with a 13-5 advantage.
“One thing that I told the players, we can’t blame, complain or defend,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “This is the COVID year, this is how it works. You’ll be on a roll and then you’ll be out for two weeks. I felt like we were just fatigued. Obviously we didn’t have everybody, but I thought we had enough. There were opportunities in the game where we should have just won, but we didn’t have enough legs. It’s tough coaching in this COVID season, it’s just difficult. Honestly, there were a lot of good things that I saw that we can build on in the future. We get to play LSU again, who is a veteran team, and I think we’ll have a better wind about our sails the next time we see them.”
Shakira Austin led the Rebels in scoring with 20 points, her 42nd career double-digit game. Snudda Collins added 14 points while Donnetta Johnson had 10 before fouling out. Iyanla Kitchens led the Rebels with seven boards.
As a team, Ole Miss shot 40 percent from the floor but went 16-of-26 (.615) from the free throw line. The Rebels forced 19 turnovers and turned that into 19 points, but were outdone on the glass, 43-35, and in the paint, 34-26. Depth also proved to be a big problem for Ole Miss down the stretch.
Early on, the Rebels found themselves in a track meet. After numerous lead changes, a 6-0 LSU run allowed the Tigers to go into the game’s first media timeout up 14-11 with 3:01 left in the first quarter. Five different Rebels found the scoreboard during that stretch while LSU’s Khayla Pointer contributed nearly half of her team’s total with a pair of three-pointers. After a tightly contested first quarter, the Tigers had a 19-16 lead. Defensively, Ole Miss proceeded to turn up the pressure.
Midway through the second quarter, both teams struggled with the basketball with seven consecutive turnovers. After Shakira Austin’s second career three-pointer and a quick jumper from LSU’s Karli Seay, the game was knotted at 21 apiece with 5:31 left in the first half. With 1:16 to go, Snudda Collins’ two consecutive three-pointers gave Ole Miss its largest lead of the half with seven. The Rebels surrendered only two transition baskets during the last four minutes and change, and held a 30-27 lead going into the locker room – their first in SEC play since Jan. 2, 2020 vs. Georgia.
Donnetta Johnson set the tone to begin the second half with a pair of baskets. Despite the Tigers finding some success near the paint, the Rebels opened up a 41-33 lead midway through the third quarter. That was also part of a 7-0 run where Ole Miss forced four turnovers in a matter of three minutes, extending its lead to 10 a few minutes later, the first double-digit lead of the game for either team.
Ole Miss saw that lead dwindle gradually and eventually lost their lead with 1:11 left in the game. After a Shakira Austin jumper, LSU called a timeout with the game tied at 64 with 48 seconds left. With seconds to play, Shakira Austin’s turn-around jumper couldn’t fall in, sending the game into overtime, where LSU outscored Ole Miss 13-5 in the extra five minutes, leaving Oxford with the win.
The Rebels will return to The Pavilion this Thursday (January 7) to continue SEC play against the Auburn Tigers (5-5, 0-2 SEC). Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CT and can be seen on SEC Network +.