Statement Win

In a game that came down to the wire, the Ole Miss women’s basketball team knocked off No. 18/No. 16 Georgia, 55-52, on Thursday night at Tad Smith Coliseum. The Rebels finished the game on an 8-0 run over the last 2:13.

It marked the program’s first win over an AP-ranked team since the 2010-11 season and also snapped a 24-game losing streak to AP-ranked opponents.

“What a huge, huge win for our program,” head coach Matt Insell said. “We put in a game plan, and our team executed it to a tee. I can’t say enough about our players, the heart and the passion they’re playing with, the energy and the focus. There are so many words I can say about our basketball team right now. I’m so proud of them that they keep fighting until the end.”

Four Rebels scored in double figures, led by senior forward Tia Faleru (Ozark, Ala.) and sophomore guard Erika Sisk (Oxford, Miss.) with 12 points each, followed by junior guard Gracie Frizzell (Little Rock, Ark.) and senior forward Danielle McCray (West Palm Beach, Fla.) with 11 point each.

“Our leaders, Tia Faleru, Danielle McCray and Erika Sisk, played big for us,” Insell said. “Gracie Frizzell shot the ball again really well for us.”

Frizzell picked up where she left off from her career game against Alabama, knocking down each of her first two 3-point attempts, helping Ole Miss (14-4, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) take a 10-4 lead to start the game.

A steal and lay-up by Faleru pushed the Rebels’ lead to 21-11, its largest lead of the game, with 7:35 left in the half. Georgia (15-3, 3-2 SEC) finished the half on a 17-7 run, drawing even at 28-28 going into halftime. The stretch included a 15-7 run after

Sisk picked up her second foul, joining freshman guard A’Queen Hayes (Horn Lake, Miss.) with two first-half fouls.

“We were a little unorganized there at the end of the first half because we had an unorthodox lineup in the game, but they figured it out,” Insell said. “They kept battling and they kept it close, even though we could have gotten down a little bit toward the end of the half. Danielle McCray was a stabilizing force for us.”

After a back-and-forth start to the second half, Georgia went on a 7-0 run, taking its first lead of the game, 38-36, and leading by as many as five, 41-36, during which the Bulldogs held the Rebels scoreless for 3:50.

Georgia maintained its advantage, leading by as many as six, 49-43, with 7:31 left in the game. Two big free throws by Faleru made it a one-possession game, 50-47, going into the under-four minute media timeout with 3:32 left the game.

“We lacked a lot of pop and energy through a lot of that game in the second half when things didn’t go well, but I can tell you this,” Insell said. “When we went into the under-four media timeout, down three or four points there, I told our staff that we’re about to win this game because, for the first time in the second half, I saw a spark in their eyes. I said, if we can get a couple of buckets to go, we’ll get it.”

Down 52-47 with 2:22 left, Ole Miss scored eight unanswered to end the game, forcing three missed shots and a turnover during the final stretch. An old-fashioned three-point play by Faleru drew the Rebels to within two with 2:11 left and two free throws by McCray tied the game at 52-52 with 1:26 left.

“When she told she was ready to go, she said to go to her every possession, and that’s what you want your best player to do,” said Insell of Faleru, whose 3-point play started the 8-0 Ole Miss run to end the game. “You want your best player to want the basketball. She wanted it, and she got a big and-one play for us that kept us going. I’m really proud of her.”

Tied 52-52 with 50.0 seconds left, Sisk drove into the lane and drew a foul, and then made both free throws to give Ole Miss a 54-52 lead with 28.2 seconds left, which proved to be the game-winning points.

After going ahead 54-52, McCray stole the ball, and Sisk made one of two free throws on the other end to give the Rebels a 55-52 lead with 13.9 seconds left. Georgia missed the front end of a one-and-one, and sophomore forward Bretta Hart grabbed the defensive rebound to secure the 55-52 win.

“Our team kept battling and fighting every possession,” Insell said. “We’re really sound and disciplined in the halfcourt defensively. A lot of times people think we’re full-court pressing, we’re unorthodox and we’re trying to speed them up, and we are trying to speed them up, but once we get in the halfcourt, we slow down ourselves and we get really disciplined on the defensive end. That’s what we did there. The last four minutes, we shut them out.”

Ole Miss will hit the road for its second straight matchup with a nationally-ranked opponent as it travels to College Station to take on No. 11/12 Texas A&M in a nationally-televised game on the SEC Network. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT from Reed Arena.

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