OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - The first field goal of the night was a three-pointer off the hand of Madinah Muhammad, and that basket set the tone for a comfortable 74-48 triumph for Ole Miss over Arkansas State at The Pavilion on Saturday.
The Rebels (7-1) put in another consistent effort, shooting .458 from the field (the seventh time in eight games this year that Ole Miss has shot 43 percent or better) while holding Arkansas State (3-4) to just .279 – the sixth Rebel opponent to shoot 35 percent or lower this season.
Ole Miss also got a career day out of Muhammad, who ended with 30 points on 11-of-25 shooting – the first 30-point game by a Rebel since current junior Torri Lewis dropped 36 as a freshman vs. New Orleans on Dec. 14, 2015. Freshman Promise Taylor turned in a big night down low as well, notching her first-career double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds to go along with six blocks (the most by a Rebel since Shawn Goff blocked six vs. Alcorn State on Nov. 24, 2008).
The efficient inside-out work of Muhammad and Taylor was exactly what the doctor ordered after the Rebels learned on Friday that they lost their second-leading scorer, Shandricka Sessom, for the season to an ACL injury.
“I think that losing Shandricka was a big hit for us, but I think it’s something that we’re prepared for,” said Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell. “We’ve got a lot of players getting better.”
Muhammad’s early three set the tone and gave the Rebels a 5-0 lead to start the game. The two teams played to a 12-12 tie early before the home team settled in. The Chicago native heated up in the second quarter, sparking a 14-2 run to help send Ole Miss into the locker room with a 33-19 halftime lead.
Midway through the third quarter, Muhammad splashed a three to give her 20 points on the night and 750 for her Ole Miss career. She continued to pour it on in the second half en route to her first 30-point game – her fifth 20-point game of the season and the 10th 20-point performance by a Rebel this year.
Meanwhile, the Red Wolves had no answer down low for Taylor. The freshman from Issaquah, Washington, was a force on both ends of the floor. Her 11 boards came as a career-high, and her six blocks pushed her season average to 3.3 per game – putting her on pace to annihilate Goff’s 2007-08 single-season record of 67 with 98 blocks of her own by season’s end.
Behind that dominant duo, Ole Miss improved to 7-1 for the first time since 2008-09. In its history, Ole Miss has started at least 7-1 in 21 different seasons, and the last Rebel team to start 8-1 came in 2005-06. The Rebels have now won five in a row and have accumulated some key wins in that span over Tournament teams like Troy and Temple, and a thrilling comeback win over Insell’s dad against Middle Tennessee on national TV Wednesday night.
“It was an emotional game on Wednesday night,” Insell said. “We’ve had a tough stretch when you think about it. We haven’t had a whole lot of days off, and you have to get your gears back up and play again after an emotional win on Wednesday.”
The Rebels will break for finals week before coming back together next Saturday to host a dangerous South Alabama squad. The Jaguars are 5-1 on the season with a win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. CT and will air on SEC Network+.
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