Rebel Rebound

Gracie Frizzell has normally been one of the first players off the bench for Matt Insell’s women’s basketball team this season. Sunday, however, she was a starter.

Freshman Shandricka Sessom fell hard onto the court during Ole Miss’ 64-57 win at Florida Thursday night. She had been starting but couldn’t go at all against the Crimson Tide.

She’s likely to be able to play against Georgia in Oxford Thursday night. But that remains to be seen, although her tests, according to Insell, "have come back negative and she’s fine.”

On this day, with Ole Miss defeating Alabama at home 77-63, it was Frizzell who made her presence more than known.

The junior veteran scored 24 points in 35 minutes, every one of those points from 3-point range.

Her eight 3-pointers were not only the most by a Southeastern Conference women’s player this season, but they were the most by an Ole Miss women’s basketball player in program history in a single contest.

And that covers a lot of great players, good teams, and basketball games.

“We’re a team and it takes us all,” said Insell, the Lady Rebels’ second-year head coach. “Shandricka being out for this game really concerned me. Not because we don’t have capable players. But we’re a group of 13, and it takes all of us.”

The Lady Rebels were 12-20 last season, Insell’s first after arriving from Kentucky where he was an assistant coach for five seasons. They were 2-14 in SEC play.

This season, with a 3-1 SEC record, they have already surpassed both their win totals from last season in league play and overall.

Now 13-4, this team is off to the best start for Ole Miss women’s basketball since the 2006-07 team made it all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.

Frizzell said she knew she had to play well today for her team to continue its turnaround season.

“I knew going into the game I was going to need to step up and hit some shots,” she said. “Shandricka is a huge part of this team offensively and defensively. The confidence my team has in me really helped me.”

Insell said Frizzell had an impressive performance, but he wasn’t surprised by that.

“What a great job by Gracie Frizzell,” he said. “I’m just really, really excited for her. She’s a player that shows up every day. She’s the first player on the court shooting shots. After practice, she gets more shots up. If I tell the players to be on the court an hour and a half before the game, she’s out there two hours before the game. She deserves everything she’s getting. She’s playing the best basketball of her career right now.”

Insell said the TV cameras in the Florida game caught him getting on Frizzell pretty good during the victory in Gainesville. But there was a reason, he said.

“I was telling her to stop shot-faking and shoot the basketball,” he said. “Our team needs her to shoot the basketball with confidence. When she does that, we’re really, really good. And she did that today.”

Frizzell said she understands Insell simply wants her to be the best she can be so she can help this team reach its goals.

“He has confidence in me and I know he believes in me,” she said. “He’s never given up on me. I know he has confidence in me.”

Insell said this team is still improving and has a ways to go to be where he believes they can be as the season moves on. The road only gets tougher.

After No. 19 Georgia comes to Oxford for a game Thursday night, it's a road trip to Texas A&M. The Aggies are currently ranked in the Top 10. Mississippi State has perhaps its best team ever, and Ole Miss faces MSU twice.

Tennessee and Kentucky come to Oxford as does South Carolina. The Lady Vols are a Top Ten team as is Kentucky. The Gamecocks are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation.

That’s not all they face the rest of the way, but you get the picture. The Lady Rebels’ final record is quite a ways down the road.

Besides all that, think back for just a minute and remember all that’s happened to this program since that Elite Eight run in 2006-07. For that matter, recall what’s happened in the three or so years prior to this one.

Insell is the fourth head coach, permanent or interim, for Ole Miss women’s basketball since the spring semester of 2012.

There’s no reason, at least not yet, to get too excited and think this year’s team can make it that far, or even to the NCAA Tournament at all. But don’t tell this group of ladies and their coaches that.

Insell and company firmly believe they can make the Big Dance. Time will obviously tell, but he clearly likes how things have gone so far.

“What a win for our team,” Insell said following the blowout of Alabama, a game the Lady Rebels led by as many as 29 points. “It’s a really unique group that we have. I don’t really know what it is, but there’s something special about this group.”

There’s a long way to go until March. But so far, he’s right about all that.

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