AUBURN, Ala. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - It was a defensive slugfest until the end, but the Ole Miss women's basketball team fell in a tight 60-55 loss at Auburn to close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon.
The Rebel and Tiger defenses forced a combined 44 turnovers and Ole Miss out-rebounded Auburn 38-29, but one particularly strong defensive quarter out of the Tigers proved the difference - even as the Rebels cut into the lead down the stretch.
Ole Miss got on the board first, breaking the Auburn full-court press (which they run all 40 minutes) for a three-pointer from Alissa Alston (seven points, four assists, three steals) in the corner. The Rebels rode that momentum to an 18-15 lead at the end of the first, led by seven points from Promise Taylor (13 points, 6-of-7 FG, 11 rebounds, four blocks, three steals) and five from Madinah Muhammad (14 points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal).
With three blocks in the first quarter, Ole Miss took down a 35-year-old school record with 130 blocks this season - bypassing the 129 blocks by the 1982-83 squad (the Rebels ended the game at 132 on the year). Taylor, who recorded her fifth career double-double, chipped in four blocks - her eighth game this season with at least four.
Auburn took the lead back with a three-pointer at 7:58 in the second quarter, beginning their run that would sustain them the remainder of the game. The Tigers ripped off a 14-2 run (which included two separate 7-0 runs) to close the half, going into the break with a 34-22 lead.
A stifling Tiger defense held Ole Miss to just 25.8 percent shooting in the first half, but the Rebels didn't quit, coming out of halftime with some momentum that led to the tight finish.
Ole Miss came out of the break fighting fire with fire, holding the Tigers scoreless for the first 4:32 on the clock. Auburn responded with a 6-0 run to keep the Rebels at bay, but Ole Miss closed the quarter with two big momentum shifting plays to cut the Tiger lead to just five heading into the fourth. In the final 17 seconds of the quarter Ole Miss received a three-pointer by Barbara Johnson (five points, two rebounds, one steal) and an Alston layup as the buzzer sounded to make it a 42-37 game going into the final frame.
The Rebels put together several runs in the final quarter, but Auburn had an answer each time until the clock hit zeros with the score 60-55 in the Tigers' favor.
Auburn had three in double-digit scoring: Daisa Alexander (21 points), Unique Thompson (15 points, nine rebounds) and Janiah McKay (12 points, six assists).
Ole Miss now heads to Nashville for the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament. The Rebels will square off against No. 11 seed Florida in the first round next Wed., Feb. 28.