The old adage that the first five minutes of each half are important in sports was condensed today as far as Carol Ross is concerned.
Condensed to one offensive and one defensive possession.
The Ole Miss Lady Rebels trailed Alabama 27-25 at halftime and hadn't looked very good even doing that. But in the first minute of the second half it was obvious the Lady Rebs had come out of the locker room to play basketball.
A jumper by Armintie Price tied the score at 27-27, and even after Bama made a basket, the Lady Rebs came back to tie it and force a turnover.
The face of the game had changed in favor of Ole Miss. The Lady Rebels would eventually roll 68-54.
But not until a familiar sharp-shooter stepped up to give Ole Miss a bit of breathing room did this one appear to be in control of the home team. Senior guard Liz Cansdale, in some fastbreak transition situations with some assists from her teammates, nailed a trey to give Ole Miss a 37-35 lead with 13:14 left in the game.
After an Alabama turnover, a two-point basket by Price, and another Lady Tide turnover, Cansdale connected again on a 3-pointer to put her team up 42-35 with 12:19 to go. The home crowd was into it now, and the Lady Tide was on the ropes.
When Cansdale sank another 3-pointer with 4:47 to go, the Lady Rebs had their largest lead at 58-43. All that remained in doubt was the margin of victory for Ole Miss. The Lady Tide never got it under 10 again.
"I'm really proud of our second half effort," said Ross, whose second Ole Miss team is now 16-7 on the season and 6-4 in Southeastern Conference action. "We set a great tone on our first offensive and defensive possession of the second half. We seemed to just kinda ride that through the final 20 minues of the ballgame. Our seniors really stepped up to lead this team in the second half. There was a great deal of concern on my part at halftime about Alabama's offensive rebounding. We knew coming in they were the best offensive rebounding team in our league. I was not happy in the first half with how we were competing on the boards. Our kids did a great job limiting them in the second half. They got four offensive rebounds in the second half after getting 14 in the first."
The visiting head coach said his squad has him baffled a bit presently.
"Right now I'm very frustrated with my team," said veteran Alabama head coach Rick Moody, whose Lady Tide fell to 13-10 overall and 4-6 in SEC play. "I thought in the first half we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game by defending well in the half court and rebounding the basketball well. Then we came out in the second half, and we turned the basketball over. They probably had like 20 points on turnovers in the second half alone. That's very frustrating.
"But give Ole Miss credit for getting it done," he continued. "They were very aggressive on the defensive end of the court. They deserved to win by doing the things they did to win the game."
Moody agreed that Cansdale's shots were big, but many of them were off turnovers, he said. His team had 25 turnovers to Ole Miss' 16. The Lady Rebs had 34 points off those Lady Tide turnovers to only 13 for Bama off the Lady Rebel miscues.
"Many were in transition, and when you turn the ball over and people are just scrambling back, they did a good job of finding her in transition," he said. "If we do a better job taking care of the basketball, then we could have done a better job of keeping her from getting her team and the crowd so energized. Those 3s were indeed big shots."
Price led Ole Miss with 26 points, followed by Amber Watts with 13 and Ashley Awkward with 11. Cansdale's three important 3-pointers were her only points of the contest.
Alabama was led by Natasha Gamble with 15 points.
The Lady Rebs are currently tied for fourth in the SEC with Vanderbilt. Both teams are 6-4 in league play. But Ole Miss holds the tiebreaker over Vandy with a win over the Lady Commodores in Oxford earlier in the year.
Leading the SEC are LSU at 10-0 and Tennessee at 9-1, with the Lady Vols' lone loss coming at Baton Rouge four days ago. Georgia is next at 8-3.
After Ole Miss travels to Mississippi State Thursday for a 7 p.m. game, they return to Oxford to host the SEC East's Lady Bulldogs in a big conference game Sunday at 2 p.m.
"This was a great job by our players for just toughing it out today," Ross said. "These games are a grind, and I thought our players accepted that and responded to it. I loved how we competed in the second half. Our players were not going to give up their home court again."
Lady Rebs roll Lady Tide 68-54
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