Playing the number seven ranked team in the country was not an easy task for Bahamian Yolett ‘Coach Yo’ McPhee-McCuin and the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Rebels women’s basketball team. The Rebels (13-2, 1-1 SEC) fell 70-58 to the University of Tennessee Volunteers (15-1, 4-0 SEC) in a conference battle on Sunday at the Sandy and John Black (SJB) Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi, ending their 13-game winning streak.
It was a good defensive game by the Rebels but their offense was not there on Sunday as a team, despite a game-high 26 points from junior Shakira Austin. It was her fourth 20-point game of the season.
“There were somethings that I liked from our team with this being our second game in SEC play, and there were things that I did not like,” McPhee-McCuin said. “Tennessee is a top-10 team in the country for a reason. The margin of error is very small. I thought that in the second quarter, that we lost our identity and had to dig deep in the third and fourth to even make the game somewhat competitive.”
The second quarter was a tough one for the Rebels as they struggled from the field, shooting 33.3 percent. Austin brought the Rebels to within three points at the 9:48 mark of the second quarter. That was the closest the Rebels got to the Vols in that quarter as the latter went on to lead 39-21 on a 23-10 second-quarter advantage.
The Vols led the nation in rebounding and that was on full display as they out-rebounded the Rebels 46-28 in the game. The Rebels were good defensively as they forced 22 turnovers by the Vols but they just couldn’t score consistently on the other end. The Rebels had 11 steals in the game as they recorded double-digit steals for the 12th time this season. They are ranked at number 22 in the nation in steals at 11.5 per game and 173 in total.
In the third quarter, the Rebels chipped away at the Vols’ lead thanks to a much better offensive showing as they shot the ball 41.2 percent from the field. The Rebels outscored the Vols 23-18 in that quarter as they brought the deficit down to 13 points after trailing by 20 points at one point. The Vols led 57-44 entering the fourth.
McPhee and the Rebels needed to get their offense going even more in the fourth quarter to hand the Vols a second loss on the season. Unfortunately, the Rebels ran out of steam offensively as they went just 5-for-17 from the field in the fourth quarter, shooting 29.4 percent. They went on to lose their first SEC game of the season.
The Rebels opened SEC play on the road last week Thursday, against the University of Florida Gators at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Florida. Austin led the team with a double-double, going off for 18 points and 10 rebounds and the Rebels won, 74-56. The win was the Rebels’ 13th straight of this season – the program’s third-longest winning streak. It was also their first opening SEC road win since 2007, and they have a perfect 4-0 win/loss record on the road for the first time since the 1986-1987 season.
It was the Rebels’ first time back in action in over two weeks, due to COVID-19 postponements.
The Rebels’ next game will be at home as they play the second of a three-game homestand against the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. That match up gets underway on Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.