Moving On

Matt Insell could hardly contain his enthusiasm. But what else is new?

His Ole Miss women’s basketball team had just won its 19th game of the season in the second round of the WNIT - 63-48 against Georgia Tech in Oxford - and is headed to play more basketball.

It didn’t matter that the next game was a rematch from a game the Rebels had lost earlier in the season.

It didn’t matter that the next WNIT game would be on the road.

It didn’t matter, but it made it more interesting for sure, that the rematch was against his own father’s team, Coach Rick Insell and the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, who are 23-9 this season.

Matt’s dad’s team won 71-65 over Matt’s team when the two played in Oxford in November. Thursday night in Murfreesboro, one of them will advance to a fourth game in this postseason tournament, and the other will pack its bags for the end of the 2014-15 season.

“He called me before the game and said he’d done his part,” Insell said of his father’s team’s 70-60 victory over Arkansas State earlier on Sunday. “It’s going to be exciting. I guarantee you I have a hundred text messages from people in Murfreesboro. I have a lot of friends and family there. There are a lot of people who support Ole Miss. It’s going to be an interesting game between two teams that are playing pretty well right now.”

His Rebels, now 19-13, didn’t pull away from the Yellow Jackets until late. The game was tied 24-24 at halftime. It was just under six minutes to go when Erika Sisk made a 3-pointer to put Ole Miss up by double digits for the first time at 53-43.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well in the first half,” Insell said. “I just told them at halftime to slow down, catch the ball and shoot it with confidence. We’re going to get the rebound (if the shot doesn’t go in), because we’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. So I told them if they’re open, shoot it. Let it fly.”

But the game was mostly low-scoring, until the Rebels pulled away the final few minutes.

“Defensively, we just guarded,” Insell said. “We guarded the whole game.”

Insell likes the fact that his team, and his program actually, knows what it means to play for a full 40 minutes. That’s a key to their success and has been a work in progress.

“This shows where we are defensively as a team. On the last possession of the game, the game’s out of reach and there’s 40 seconds to go. A’Queen Hayes is guarding like it’s the first possession of the game. Erika Sisk is guarding like it’s the first possession of the game. Tia Faleru, Danielle McCray, Gracie Frizzell. That’s where we’re getting to. That’s growing, and I’m real excited about that.”

The crowds are showing up, too. People are becoming interested in women’s basketball again at Ole Miss, and many for the first time ever.

“We’ve got people that are coming to the games, they’re into the games, we’re gathering support,” Insell said. “It’s just huge momentum for recruiting. It’s huge momentum for our young kids to get practice time and game experience. We’re one win away from 20 wins. It’s been a long time since people were excited about Ole Miss women’s basketball.

“In year two of a process that we began, not a lot of people thought we would be at this point,” Insell continued. “Georgia Tech is a very good basketball team. I know we have a real good team. But I didn’t sleep a wink all (Saturday) night.”

It’s highly doubtful he will the next few nights either.

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