One Win Down

Matt Insell won't ever get another chance to win his first game as a collegiate head coach. His Ole Miss women's basketball team took care of that Friday night for him 83-62 over Jacksonville State.

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But that wasn't what was on the first-year Rebel head coach's mind before, during, or after the season-opener at C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum.

"It's special, but I really never thought about it during the game," said Insell, who came to Ole Miss in the spring after serving as an assistant coach at Kentucky the past five years. "I'm just trying for us to get better each game."

Early on, it appeared it might have to be another day for Insell to win his first one. The Rebels looked out of sorts in the first half and trailed 35-24 at halftime.

"We were just a little bit nervous, first game, first half," said senior guard Valencia McFarland. "The second half it was a lot better. We calmed down and shots fell."

Insell told McFarland and junior Tia Faleru they needed to pick it up as the second half began. He gave them four minutes to get it right, according to both players.

And what would the consequence be?

According to McFarland, "A 6 a.m. workout," she smiled and said.

"He came in calm, which was a surprise to me," she continued. "He came in and told us to pick it up and go out there and play hard."

So that's exactly what the Rebels did.

After halftime, Ole Miss had a big turnaround, tying the game 41-41 before gaining the lead and moving on to the 21-point victory.

"Some people said they'd like to be a fly on the wall at halftime," said Insell, concerning what he told the team. "But I really didn't get on them too much. We forgot our fundamentals, we forgot what we did in practice, we were playing scared and timid. I just told them to relax and play, and that we were fine."

Senior Guard Valencia McFarland
Bruce Newman

"The first half we had jitters and not enough enthusiasm about what we were doing," said junior Tia Faleru. "After halftime, we got stop after stop on defense. We worked really well on defense."

Faleru led the Rebels with 18 points, while McFarland had 15 and Diara Moore had 11.

"Diara Moore was a warrior the whole game offensively and defensively," Insell said. "She's a special kid that's getting better every day."

Insell said that second half is more of what he's looking for from his team.

"We scored 59 points (in the second half), and I knew this team could do that," Insell said. "We've got to get better defensively, and we're going to get there."

Insell said his program, and this team in particular, has only just begun.

"It's a season. It's a journey," he said. "There are going to be a lot of ups and downs."

On this night, the ups were mainly in the second half. And Matt Insell had his first collegiate win as a head coach.

Ole Miss is back on the court Sunday when it hosts Central Arkansas. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. and it is International Students Day. Also if a fan brings a ticket stub from the Ole Miss-Arkansas football game, admittance to the women's basketball game is free.

"We're ready to play again," Faleru said. "We've got to have the same intensity the whole game Sunday we had in the second half of this game."

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