OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - After rolling to the first 7-1 start at Ole Miss in nearly 10 years, the Rebel women’s basketball team has earned a top-50 ranking in the NCAA’s first RPI report of the season, landing at No. 44 in the rankings released Monday morning.
The Rebels have notched a handful of key non-conference wins to get off to the first 7-1 start at Ole Miss since 2008-09, including against NCAA Tournament teams like Troy (96-93) and Temple (64-48), and a crucial victory against perennial postseason contender Middle Tennessee (65-56) on national television last Wednesday.
At the moment, Ole Miss is one of 12 teams nationally that are 7-1 or better through at least eight games played. The Rebels rank in the NCAA top-25 in: blocks (5th, 50), blocks per game (11th, 6.3), shooting defense (15th, 33.3), free throw attempts (23rd, 179), shooting percentage (24th, 46.4) and rebounds (24th, 344).
Helping spurn the strong start is an average scoring margin of 18.9 points per game (23.7 PPG in wins), and a 5-0 start at home in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. As a team, the Rebels have shot 43 percent of better in seven of eight games played, while simultaneously stifling opponents to 34 percent or worse in six of eight games played.
Individually, the Rebels have been led by junior guards Madinah Muhammad and Alissa Alston, and freshman forward Promise Taylor. The Rebels lost senior guard Shandricka Sessom for the season to an ACL injury suffered last week vs. Middle Tennessee, but all three are averaging double-digit scoring to pick up the slack left in Sessom’s wake.
Muhammad most recently recorded the first 30-point game at Ole Miss in two seasons vs. Arkansas State, adding to a strong resume thus far in the year. Muhammad ranks second in the SEC in scoring (21.1 PPG), third in free throw percentage (.850) and third in threes made per game (3.1/game).
After missing the first two games of the season, Alston has come back to score 13.3 PPG, and is currently leading the conference in assists at 5.7 per game.
The Rebels also boast one of the top freshmen in the nation in Taylor, who leads the SEC in blocks per game (3.3) and ranks second in shooting percentage (.677) – ranking as the top freshman nationally in both categories.
Ole Miss has this week off for finals, but returns to the court on Saturday afternoon to play host to South Alabama at 1 p.m.