OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – Ole Miss women’s basketball ripped off a 12-0 run in the final two minutes of play but was unable to overcome an early lead built by Vanderbilt as the Rebels fell, 75-72, to the Commodores on Thursday night inside The Pavilion.
Vanderbilt shot 50 percent from the field in the game and used a 13-3 run in the first quarter to build a 24-11 lead, but Ole Miss scraped back from as many as 22 down for a dramatic, yet unfortunate, finish.
“Vanderbilt came out and, all credit to them, they outplayed us, particularly early in the game,” said Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell. “They made the plays they had to do to get themselves a lead and get themselves in a comfort zone. Vanderbilt has played a very tough schedule as of late, and they’ve been playing extremely well. (Vanderbilt head coach) Stephanie (White) does a really good job with her team, and they just keep getting better.”
The Rebels played strong in the back half yet again, winning the second half at a wide 48-36 margin – led by an offensive assault by junior Alissa Alston. Ole Miss closed on a 43-24 run after Vanderbilt reached its highest lead of the night of 22 points at the 4:39 mark of the third quarter (51-29), led almost exclusively by Alston.
The junior native of New Haven, Conn., ended the night with a career-high 28 points – 19 of which came in the second half (10 in the third quarter, nine in the fourth). Alston shot 8-of-18 overall from the floor, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and a perfect 9-of-9 clip from the free throw line – her third game this season starting at least 8-of-8 from the charity stripe.
For Alston, Thursday night’s outing marks her fifth 20-point game after not recording any her first two seasons as a Rebel.
The run to the finish was a wild one, as Ole Miss erased a 17-point lead in just 2:12 with a 12-0 streak to pull within five at 14 seconds remaining. A free throw by Bree Glover (four points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals) at 1:42 kicked off the run, which included, in order, a Barbara Johnson (four points, two rebounds) layup, a three pointer by Alston, a layup and a free throw on an and-one by Alston, and a three-pointer by Torri Lewis (12 points, three assists, 4-of-7 3PT). Ole Miss knocked down six three-pointers in the fourth quarter alone after only hitting four in the previous three.
Lewis made it even more interesting with another trey with seven seconds left to make it a 75-72 game, but the Rebels were unable to get a shot off from the entire length of the court with just a second remaining after a pair of missed Commodore free throws.
Vanderbilt (6-17, 2-7 SEC) had four in double-digit scoring, including a 20-point outing by Christa Reed. The Commodores were also able to capitalize with 23 points off of 18 Rebel turnovers to help build the early lead over Ole Miss (11-11, 1-8 SEC).
“We’ve got to play better, we’ve got to play with more energy and more want-to early in games,” Insell said. “I’ve got to, as a head coach, figure out why we’re not, and I think I figured some things out today.”
Ole Miss faces another tough road test this coming Sunday with a trip to No. 17 Georgia.
“I was real proud of how we finished the game, but when you dig yourself a hole like that you get beat,” Insell said. “We’ll have to move on and get ready to play Georgia on Sunday.”