OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – The Ole Miss women’s basketball team (4-1) held off a three-point barrage from the Troy Trojans (2-1) for a 96-93 win Tuesday at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
Troy was 12-of-36 from beyond the arc and attempted 93 shots on the afternoon, but Matt Insell’s Rebels went to their bread and butter, attacking the paint for a 46-12 scoring advantage down low to move to 4-1.
“Troy is a team, when we watched on film, I told our kids that they’ve got to be locked into what’s going on,” Insell said. “It’s a unique style the way they play with their shot attempts. They take quick shots, which results in a lot of long rebounds. If you’re not locked in, you struggle against that style. Tonight we didn’t do a very good job defensively nor rebounding. That’s something we’ll have to correct and get better at. But I’m glad we got the win. Very happy with our kids pulling through and getting the win.”
Junior Alissa Alston came through with back-to-back buckets to open the game and a career night. The New Haven, Connecticut, native finished with a career-high 26 points. She added six rebounds and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line to pace the Rebels throughout the contest.
“I thought she was rusty in Chicago. She had some struggles up there, but she started working her way back in today,” Insell said. “She’s good player. We’re a totally different team when she’s on the court.”
Troy kept the contest close throughout. The Rebels mounted a key 9-0 run late in the opening period to put some distance between themselves and the visiting Trojans and take a 25-17 advantage into the second quarter.
Early in the second, a string of offensive rebounds led to one of Troy’s 12 treys on the night, prompting a timeout from Insell. The Trojans held just a 55-53 advantage on the boards overall, but they pulled down 31 offensive rebounds, leading to 32 second-chance points.
“They take a lot of quick shots,” Insell said. “If you’re not hustling back, they make you pay. They had some kids tonight make some threes on us. But we stood around when shots went up. Hopefully that’s a warning for our players. Offensively, we’re pretty good, but we’ve got to get better defensively.”
Shortly after the Rebels regrouped from the timeout, Shandricka Sessom dropped in the 1,100th point of her Rebel career at the 6:52 mark of the second quarter. Shortly thereafter, the senior from Byhalia, Mississippi, scored off an alley-oop from Alston to move to 25th on the program’s all-time scoring list. Sessom finished with her seventh career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Alston punctuated her outstanding first half with a steal and breakaway layup to give the Rebels a 16-point lead, 46-30, at halftime. The Rebel point guard had 16 points and six boards at the break at the break. However, the Trojans never let up, mounting a 9-0 run to start the second half, cutting the lead to seven, leading to an Insell timeout.
“We got to the point a couple of times where I thought we would have a chance to blow them out and we kind of let up there,” Insell said. “That’s not who we are.”
Forward Promise Taylor scored the next four points out of the timeout as part of a 15-point night for the freshman from Issaquah, Washington, the fourth double-figure output of her young career. She also tied a career-high with eight rebounds and added four blocks, giving her 15 on the year.
The Trojans continued to chip away, depleting the Rebel lead to just five points before Madinah Muhammad came alive late in the third. The junior from Chicago knocked down three free throws and buried a deep 3-pointer on the following possession to make it a double-digit lead once again. A layup late in the period gave Muhammad 700 points for her career and helped send the Rebels into the fourth with a 13-point cushion.
Once again, the Trojans wouldn’t let the Rebels run away. Troy opened the final frame with a 9-2 run before a smooth transition layup by Alston quelled the hot streak. Muhammad followed with a nine-point spurt, featuring two traditional three-point plays and a make from beyond the arc.
Ole Miss continued to hold off Troy until the final possession. The Rebels used strong free-throw shooting to help close out the win. Muhammad finished with a career-high 12 makes from the stripe. Muhammad and Alston combined to go 20-for-21 from the line.
“Troy scored 80-plus points on Mississippi State in the NCAA tournament a year ago. They can score the basketball,” Insell said. “These are good teams that we’re playing. It’s good for us to get challenged. Some adversity hit us tonight, but we’ll get better from that and be better come Saturday.”
Another tough challenge awaits, as the Rebels will head to the hometown of freshman Chyna Nixon to take on Temple on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. CT.
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