LEXINGTON, Ky. - With a chance to escape Day One of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, the Rebels delivered yet again with an explosive second half and timely defensive stops as Ole Miss upset No. 17 Kentucky, 73-69, at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday.
“Man, what a huge win for us,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “Just incredible. Really excited for our team, the way we fought. Just to get a win over a ranked team on the road, words can’t describe how proud I am for this team and to get a bye for next week.”
The season sweep for Ole Miss (10-10, 4-10 SEC) over Kentucky (16-7, 9-6 SEC) constitutes the first season sweep over the Wildcats in program history. The Rebels were hot both from the floor (44 percent) and the free throw line (21-of-25), and defensively they forced the Wildcats to shoot less than 35 percent from the floor for the second consecutive matchup at 33 percent (22-for-66).
Shakira Austin came up big yet again with 22 points (6-for-18 FG) and 12 rebounds. Her ninth double-double of the season was done in the first half alone. Donnetta Johnson also made a big impact with 14 points (5-for-8 FG), including a string of baskets to begin the second half that played a key role in overcoming an 11-point first half deficit. Madison Scott and Snudda Collins each finished with 12 points, with Scott also getting 10 boards for her fifth career double-double. All of Collins’ scoring came in the second half with four crucial three-pointers after starting the game 0-for-3.
The Rebels controlled the tempo early on while both teams went back and forth through the first five minutes, with Kentucky leading 12-9. The Wildcats got Johnson in early foul trouble as they used a jolt of momentum, including a 10-0 run to later lead 22-13 at the end of the first quarter. Kentucky forced Ole Miss to miss six of their last seven field goals of the quarter while Rhyne Howard had an early eight points.
Austin and Scott attacked the basket to get the Rebels back within five, but Kentucky continued to find open buckets to give them a 10-point lead. Both teams went cold from the field going into the final media timeout with the Wildcats leading 29-20. With 37 seconds left in the half, Austin’s strong layup-and-one cut Ole Miss’ deficit to six as they went into the half down 31-25. The Rebels held Kentucky scoreless for the final 4:13 of the first half.
Ole Miss shot 35 percent (9–for-26) from the floor with 14 points coming from the paint and 11 points off turnovers. Austin already had her ninth double-double of the season with 11 points (3-for-10 FG) and 10 rebounds, while Howard had 10 points and five boards to lead the Wildcats. Defensively, the Rebels forced Kentucky to shoot 34 percent (11-for-32) while getting two blocks and six turnovers.
The momentum carried over into the second half for Ole Miss as two quick layups by Johnson forced Kentucky to call timeout just 46 seconds into the third quarter, down 31-29. Johnson added another layup coming out of the timeout and a Collins three-pointer gave Ole Miss their first lead since the opening quarter, 34-31. Another three-pointer by Collins gave Ole Miss a six point lead before a Dre’una Edwards three-pointer snapped a 12-0 run in the quarter.
The Rebels held a 39-34 lead going into the first media timeout of the second half. Through five minutes, Ole Miss was shooting 67 percent (6-for-9) in the third quarter. A driving layup by Valerie Nesbitt gave her team a seven-point lead, but Kentucky found their way right back in it with a 7-0 run. After three complete, the Rebels led 43-42. In the third quarter, Ole Miss outscored Kentucky 18-11.
After Kentucky cut the lead to one, Collins drained her third three-point basket of the game two minutes into the fourth quarter. Going into an Ole Miss timeout with 5:49 to go, the Rebels were hanging on to a 51-50 lead. The Wildcats forced a turnover and cashed in coming out of the timeout to take a 52-51 lead. Both teams continued to trade blows all the way through the three-minute mark as Ole Miss had a 61-58 lead.
With 1:03 left, Collins nailed a dagger corner three all alone to give the Rebels a 64-58 lead. Chasity Patterson drove the lane to cut the lead to four on the following possession. After a foul by Howard, Austin sunk two free throws to make it a 66-60 ball game with 42 seconds left. Scott also made two free throws to extend their lead to eight with 38 seconds on the clock. Howard immediately responded with an easy layup. Nesbitt followed that up going 1-for-2 at the charity stripe. But a Patterson three-pointer made it a four-point game again with 26 seconds left. Johnson continued to create separation with four consecutive free throws, giving Ole Miss a 73-67 lead with 13 seconds to go. The Rebels hung on the rest of the way, pulling off the upset yet again.
After the Ole Miss win and Florida loss to Georgia, the Rebels will now start this week’s SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina for the final game of the night against the No. 6 seed Thursday, March 4. The game can be seen on SEC Network. The No. 6 seed will be determined by tonight’s Alabama-Arkansas matchup.