OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – Temple clawed their way back into the game after a huge first quarter by the Ole Miss women’s basketball team, but the Rebels showed some resiliency and held on down the stretch to take a 62-55 win over the Owls at The Pavilion on Wednesday night.
Ole Miss (2-1) exploded out of the gates to a 21-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Temple counteracted with a strong middle half of the game to make it interesting in the fourth. It looked as though it would go right down to the wire, as the Owls pulled within three with 5:49 left to play, but the Rebels pushed back and hung tight for the win.
“We knew Temple was on a two-game winning streak, and I said, ‘Ladies, we don’t have to be better than Temple. We just need to be better than Temple tonight,’” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin.
It took a complete team effort out of Ole Miss to be better than Temple, as the Rebels were all around solid in just about every category on Wednesday night. Despite a tough second quarter clip of 18.2 percent, Ole Miss still shot a season-high 43.4 percent from the field overall. Helping in that effort was a season-high 20 assists and a season-low 11 turnovers.
Three Rebels led the way in double-digit scoring, led by senior Crystal Allen with her third consecutive double-digit game to start her Ole Miss career with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting (2-of-3 from beyond the arc). Fellow senior La’Karis Salter netted an Ole Miss career-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with five boards, four assists and two blocks. Senior Cecilia Muhate also hit double figures for the first time this season with 10 points and two three-pointers – the first two treys of her entire Ole Miss career.
And despite a big night out of Temple’s Mia Davis (22 points, six rebounds), the Rebel defense continued to shine, holding its third straight opponent this season to under 34 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers in the process that wound up as 15 Rebel points. Entering today, Ole Miss ranked within the top-half in six different defensive categories in the SEC.
“You don’t have to have skill to defend, you just have to be tough and you have to be competitive,” McPhee-McCuin said. “I had really challenged our team to come out and compete at a high level.”
A surprise spark to that competitive edge came a couple hours before tipoff, as true freshman Gabby Crawford was cleared to play tonight after transferring from Alabama at the beginning of the semester. In her debut, the four-star recruit out of Munford, Tennessee, put up six points, three rebounds and two blocks.
“I don’t know if there’s a word for how big it was to have Gabby,” McPhee-McCuin said. “What’s so impressive about what Gabby did tonight is that she found out two hours before the game that she was gonna play. For the whole week, she didn’t even practice with us, she was on the scout team. For her to come and show the composure and the fight, I’m so pleased and happy for her. I know as a program, we were ecstatic.”
After a tight loss to IUPUI last Friday night – who was just named one of ESPNw’s top-10 mid-majors nationally – Ole Miss stands at 2-1 heading into a Sunday afternoon matchup with Western Michigan. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CT inside The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
“Right now, we’re just focusing on improving every game,” McPhee-McCuin said. “We had to go through the loss to figure out things we needed to work on as a team. Nothing stings and burns until you touch the hot stove. That’s the thing about this team: as we grow and learn, we’re going to have to figure out ways to have success or learn from our failures so that we can move forward.”