OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – Ole Miss women’s basketball received a career day out of freshman Jayla Alexander, but could not overcome a slow start in a 69-64 loss to New Orleans at The Pavilion on Friday afternoon.
The Rebels (2-1) shot 44.2 percent from the floor and were 8-of-19 from three-point distance, but the Privateers (2-2) took advantage of 23 Ole Miss turnovers, converting them into 25 points while shooting 41 percent overall themselves.
“I just think right now we’re not the tougher team, and when you’re not tough, you turn the ball over,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “I wasn’t confident coming into this game because I didn’t feel like we had a lot of good practices. With a team that is young like this, we’re going to have to take losses to learn from it. As a staff, we saw it coming, but this team is stubborn enough that they needed to get a loss. We needed this.”
New Orleans came out swinging right from the jump, winning the first quarter at a 13-2 advantage while holding the Rebels to without a field goal. Alexander helped kickstart the Rebel comeback in the second quarter, scoring 10 of 15 Ole Miss points that frame by herself to cut the deficit to 23-17 at the break.
The third quarter saw an offensive explosion from the Rebels, who shot 64.3 percent and scored 22 points. However, the Privateers went shot-for-shot with them, scoring 27 points on 52.6 percent shooting. New Orleans had climbed to a 20-point lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter, but Ole Miss closed the frame on a 16-7 run. The Rebels took the fourth quarter, 25-19, but the Rebels could only get within four points with 26 seconds to play before the Prviateers had solidified victory.
“We have to take our time and we have to be locked in,” McPhee-McCuin said. “We have to be ready to step up and do the things you need to do to get a win. It’s college basketball. That team is a team full of seniors. They’re not afraid. They’ve played in these games. They’ve played two power-5 teams. They got their butts kicked pretty badly. They saw an opportunity with a young group like us and they took advantage of it. Congrats to them.”
The bright spot of the day for Ole Miss came in the form of the freshman and Mississippi native Jayla Alexander, who came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points with a 5-of-8 clip from beyond the arc. Alexander is the third different Rebel to lead in scoring through three games played after Taylor Smith poured in 18 against Mississippi Valley State and Deja Cage scored 21 points against ULM.
Cage was in double figures for the third straight game as well, scoring 12 points while chipping in four rebounds and three assists. Junior Valerie Nesbitt recorded her first double-digit game as a Rebel, scoring 10 points with four steals. Freshman Sarah Dumitrescu was the top rebounder for Ole Miss, snagging a career-high 11 boards while adding four points.
Up next for the Rebels is a trip to Hattiesburg when Ole Miss takes on Southern Miss next Tuesday (Nov. 19) at 6 p.m. CT.
“In order for us to have success, we have to go through situations like this and as a coach, I’m going to figure out how to get better for my team, and I expect them to do the same thing,” McPhee-McCuin said.