KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – Ole Miss had the 10th-ranked Lady Vols on the ropes for much of the game, but Tennessee pulled away late despite a valiant effort by the Rebels in a 75-66 loss at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night.
The Rebels (11-9, 1-6 SEC) were paced by a mesmerizing career-night by junior Madinah Muhammad (31 points, eight rebounds, 7-of-10 3PT), but the Lady Vols held her to just nine second-half points.
“All credit to Tennessee,” said Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell. “They’ve got a really good team, and they play really hard together.”
Tennessee took the first quarter 30-20 and led by as many as 15, but the Rebels showed a resilience that was present the entire game, keeping the contest close up until the final buzzer.
Two early defensive stops set the tone for Ole Miss, who held the Lady Vols to several long scoring droughts on the night and an 18.2 percent clip from beyond the arc. Tennessee put together a 13-2 run in that first frame – which included a 6-of-6 streak from the field – but the Rebels never waivered, closing the quarter on a 5-0 run to keep the score 30-20 and store up some momentum for an impressive second quarter.
Ole Miss, led by Muhammad, ripped off an explosive 14-0 run to close the second quarter and pull within two at halftime at 40-38. The Rebel defense played their part, holding the Lady Vols scoreless over the last 6:10 to play in the half, leaving room for Muhammad’s offensive showcase.
Muhammad owned 12 of those 14 points during the run, including four straight treys. Muhammad ended the night with a career-high 31 points and seven total three-pointers, tied for the third-most in a single-game in Ole Miss history. Muhammad is inching ever closer to the 1,000-point mark for her career, now sitting at 948 after tonight.
Ole Miss kept the pedal down, tying the game at 49-49 on an Alissa Alston (19 points, four assists, four rebounds) layup with 2:54 to play in the third, but Tennessee responded by breaking another five-plus minute scoring drought with a 6-0 run for some breathing room – ending the third quarter at 57-51.
The Rebels closed on an 11-1 run over the final two minutes of play, but Tennessee stretched to a 19 point-lead with 2:32 left that provided enough cushion for the late Rebel charge.
Muhammad and Alston combined for 50 of the 66 total points scored by Ole Miss this evening, with both playing 39 minutes. Freshman Promise Taylor added eight points, five rebounds and four blocks in the effort. Four Lady Vols were in double-digit scoring, led by Rennia Davis with 18 points and eight rebounds on 6-of-8 shooting.
“I’m proud of how our players handled adversity ourselves,” Insell said. “They came back from a lot of different situations. They just kept believing in each other, believing in our gameplan. We gave ourselves a chance to win. Those are games we have to win and those are games we will win as we continue to move forward.”
The Rebels return home for another top-10 matchup, this time against heated rival, No. 2 Mississippi State, on ESPNU. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT inside The Pavilion at Ole Miss.