Coach Yo, Ole Miss Rebels head into conference play with winning record

Two Fridays ago, the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Lady Rebels lost a home game to the University of Louisiana, 53-42, and saw their win-loss record for the 2019 portion of the season slip back to .500 at 6-6 in women’s college basketball. Since that time, they have beaten Alabama State and are now back above .500. They won convincingly over the Alabama State Lady Hornets at the Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi, on Saturday, 93-66.

This is the time when the comparison between last season and the present one begins in earnest. Last season, during Yolett “Coach Yo” McPhee-McCuin’s first at Ole Miss, she guided the Lady Rebels to a 9-22 overall record and 3-13 in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The big news centered around the three conference victories, compared to just one the season before.

So, Coach Yo entered this season poised to improve and the expectations in Ole Miss County were high. They still are. Thus far, the seven victories put Coach Yo and her Rebels on pace to easily surpass their total from a year ago, and they likely will surpass the three conference wins as well.

Such is the life of coaches, though, that the more significant the playing circuit, the greater the demand is to succeed and to do better than you did the previous season, when a team is climbing up the status ladder.

At the University of Jacksonville, for five years Coach Yo improved her team’s fortunes, inclusive of one National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament appearance, and two Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) berths.

Her achievements at Jacksonville heightened her market value and Ole Miss went all out to entice the Grand Bahama native and daughter of legendary Coach Gladstone “Moon” McPhee. So, she is now essential to the revitalization of the Ole Miss women’s basketball program.

The goal, as is understood, is to do for Ole Miss what she did for Jacksonville, or better. After the holiday break, Coach Yo and her team will go into the 2020 portion of the season with a winning record.

Coach Yo and the Rebels open the highly competitive SEC schedule on January 2 in a home game at the Pavilion against the University of Georgia. Then, they head to College Station to take on Teas A&M in a January 6 contest. The Lady Rebels return home to face the University of Tennessee on January 9.

It’s a tough lineup for Ole Miss and I hold the view that the three upcoming matches will test Coach Yo’s players severely. It’s a tough grind in the SEC, all the time, and Georgia, Texas A&M and Tennessee will be the gauge for the Rebels going forward.

Those matches, I submit, will clearly indicate just how Coach Yo’s squad has evolved. Will Ole Miss adjust for the better, from the 9-22 record of last season? Are they good enough to win more than three conference games? Can they be more consistent and avoid losing streaks?

Hopefully the answer will be yes to all three questions.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

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