UM women take care of USC 76-57

So what's the 24th-ranked Ole Miss women's basketball team going to do now that they are atop the Southeastern Conference standings with a 5-0 record and a 16-4 overall mark? Take a week off, that's what.

Actually they'll only take a couple of days off since they have one week between games. The next time they are in action is at Georgia on Thursday, Jan. 25.

Beginning Sunday, there'll be plenty of practice time before the trip to Athens. Based on the way they've played lately, they certainly deserve a couple of days off, according to head coach Carol Ross.

"This team is tired and I knew that, because they've been pushed by me and by whoever we played," Ross said after her team's 76-57 win over South Carolina in Oxford Thursday night, their seventh win in a row without a single loss this calendar year. "It's been a grind but they kept their focus. They played with a lot of energy and effort."

The Rebels are off to their best start in SEC play since 1991-92 when they went a perfect 11-0 and became conference champions. Now SEC teams play 14 games during the league's regular season.

Ole Miss proved earlyon in this one that it wasn't going to head to the open week with a loss. The Rebels led 21-6 at the midway point of the first half on a Danetra Forrest layup. When USC cut the lead to 28-20, the Rebels moved back out to a commanding 15-point edge at halftime. That eight-point margin with 4:30 left in the first half was the last time in the contest the Gamecocks got the UM advantage down to single digits.

Senior guard Ashley Awkward scored 22 points and was 4-for-5 from 3-point range, including a buzzer-beater before halftime that gave Ole Miss a 40-25 lead at the break.

"I'm really not what you'd call a 3-point shooter," Awkward said, interrupted at that point by Ross who said, "You are now."

Awkward continued, "But it was one of those nights when your shot is on and you just keep on shooting. I guess it was just my night."

The Ole Miss lead was its largest at 21 points when senior guard Armintie Price scored on a layup with 1:11 to go in the game for a 76-55 lead.

Veteran South Carolina head coach Susan Walvius said the crowd, announced at 2,981, helped the Rebels' cause.

"You have to give a lot of credit to their fans," she said. "The team couldn't hear us on the court. Their fans were great tonight and their players really responded to their fans.

"But credit their entire team," Walvius continued. "They did exactly what we thought they'd do. Their defense creates a lot of offense for them. Ashley Awkward stepped up and had a huge game for them and shot the ball very well. They hit shots, their rebounding game was very good, and their transition game was very good. But we expected that. You have to be really impressed with this team, because they really are playing well."

Price followed Awkward in the scoring department with 17 points. She also had 11 rebounds and seven assists.

"This is our homecourt and we wanted to come out with a lot of energy," Price said. "We wanted to set the tone and come out and roll."

Walvius, whose team is now 11-8 and 1-3, said Price is the best she's ever been, in her opinion.

"She does so many things. As tough as she was to defend last year and as good as she was last year, she is that much better this year."

Ross didn't hesitate to again mention how hard her team had played through five SEC games, and how much they needed and deserved some time off.

"If ever there was a team that needed a break, it's this one," she said. "They've given a lot of energy and effort everytime they've stepped on the court in SEC competition. Now they get a couple of days to reflect and rest up, and then we'll get back at it."

The players said they are glad to get a break.

"I know I'm not even acting excited, but I'm just so tired," Awkward said. "I'm glad we get some time off, but I'm already thinking about Georgia. We need to beat Georgia and keep this thing going."

They get that chance next Thursday night.

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