Carol Ross hesitated with an answer as to whether Wednesday night's 67-57 win over No. 7 Rutgers in Oxford was her program's biggest since she and her staff took over back in the spring of 2003. She said she'd have to think a bit before responding.
I know Carol. She's Ole Miss through and through. I think she likes beating Mississippi State, which she's done three times since returning, as much as winning games over Top 10 teams. And I'm sure there were others on her list of big wins in two seasons and now eight games at her alma mater.
"This was certainly a great win for not only this team but for this program," said Ross, now 43-26 at UM. "To beat a team like Rutgers with the tradition they have and the program they have is a credit to our team. It's a big, big win for us."
Ole Miss hadn't beaten a Top 10 team in women's basketball since Van Chancellor and his family slid off an icy Lafayette County road on their way to the Tad Pad on Feb. 4, 1996, and hitched a ride on in to town so Van could coach against the Lady Volunteers. Tennessee was ranked third in the country and fell that cold winter's Sunday 78-72 in Oxford.
Van probably slid out of his chair Wednesday night somewhere in metro Houston when he heard the score of this one. Or maybe jumped for joy.
These are his girls - Ross, Peggie Gillom Granderson, and Renee Rutland Ladner - who have brought Ole Miss women's basketball all the way back to the front pages of sports sections across the country. And don't forget about Jocelyn McGilberry, not necessarily one of Van's, but you can go ahead and call her one since she played at Auburn when Ross was an assistant there - a part of the family tree, so to speak.
Ross said she knew this one would wake up some echoes around the hoops world.
"When you beat a ranked team from the East, then everybody in the country knows it," she said. "This game will have a ripple effect."
Hall of Fame Coach Vivian Stringer, a legend in women's basketball for 30 years, said she was impressed with the Lady Rebels.
"They were all on the same page tonight," said the Rutgers mentor, whose team lost for the first time in nine games this season. "They understood what it takes to win a game like this. They did a very good job."
For Ole Miss, Armintie Price had 22 points. So did Ashley Johnson. Stringer said they expected things like that from Price and maybe even Johnson or other Lady Reb players.
"We knew about Price. We knew what they could do," she said. "But we couldn't do anything about it. We just couldn't stop them."
Are they Top 25 worthy, she was asked of the Lady Rebels?
"Looks like it to me. They can have our spot," Stringer quipped and smiled.
Ole Miss, now 7-1, must come back down to earth in a hurry with a trip to Memphis on the horizon Friday night and a home date with Nicholls State Sunday afternoon. Two wins and a ranking is assured.
It's been a long, tough road back for a winning and storied tradition like Lady Rebel basketball. Wednesday night was a big step toward proving they might just be back to stay.
"The secret's out now," Ross said after the big win before 2,247 supportive fans.
Yes, Ole Miss Lady Rebel basketball feels a whole lot like old times again.
'The secret's out now,' says Carol Ross
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