Coach Vaught always said the Rebels' 21-14 football win in Oxford in 1952 put Ole Miss on the map. The late great Rebel coach would have been quite proud of Carol Ross and her group of Rebels as they sent the defending national champions home Tuesday night from the NCAA Tournament 89-78 in Hartford, Conn.
The Rebels' win over the Terps on the gridiron was a national headliner, a huge upset over the then-national powerhouse football program and launched Ole Miss to its first of eight Sugar Bowl appearances.
Tuesday night's win for the women's basketball program, already on front pages of websites everywhere as we speak, sends Ole Miss to its first women's Sweet Sixteen since 1992 to play Oklahoma in Dayton on Sunday.
Who knows how they did it? I'm still amazed. This was a Terrapin team that beat Ole Miss by 31 points in November. A 42-point turnaround in four months? It's what sports – and the NCAA Tournament – are all about.
What you've seen – and heard – in the last two nights are what coaches are trying their best to tell us as they work to make Ole Miss a national headliner in every area in this era. It's not an easy task. They know it. We know it. We all live it.
But what Carol Ross and her team and staff did to Maryland, and what Andy Kennedy said in his postgame radio comments after the Rebels lost to Clemson are what they want us all to understand. Same thing for Mike Bianco and Billy Chadwick. Ed Orgeron and Joe Walker and Steve Holeman. Ernest Ross and Mark Beyers and Joe Getzin and Valerie Boothe and Missy Dickerson and Meghan Bolger.
You can build it here. It can be done. But it takes focus and direction, hard work and dedication and a big commitment. And as Kennedy emphatically said Monday night, everybody has to be on the same page pulling together. Won't work any other way.
He wasn't wasting his breath or his time. Kennedy doesn't do that. He meant every word and he hoped all were listening. He, like every coach here, doesn't have time to waste.
The big win for the women started on defense as they caused Maryland to cough up the basketball time and time again. The Terps turned it over 29 times, 20 of them in an unbelievable first half for Ole Miss, which led 47-30 at the break. The Rebels stole the ball from Maryland 15 times in the contest, 10 of them in that stellar first half of play.
And free throws. The Rebels missed 19 of 40 they shot against TCU in the victory two days before. Against Maryland, they missed just three and made 24. That helped.
Armintie Price. Ashley Awkward. Jada Mincy. The three seniors claim they're as close as sisters. They came into the program together. They worked and toiled and labored together. Now they have something special to show for it. And they get to keep playing together.
But the future of the Rebels also looked bright Tuesday night with freshmen Shantell Black and Alliesha Easley playing maybe their best games yet. Black had six points and four assists. Easley, a Hugh Freeze product from Briarcrest, was 4-of-6 from 3-point land and had 16 points in the contest.
Price had three steals and needs just four more for 400 in her career. That would make her just the second player in women's NCAA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists and 400 steals. The other is former Southern Cal star Cheryl Miller. Good company, huh.
Next up, the Sooners. The other Dayton game has Tennessee playing Marist.
But thoughts of other games can wait. This was the biggest win in Ole Miss women's basketball in 15 years, and one of the biggest wins in Ole Miss sports in years.
Maybe that says something. Maybe there haven't been enough big wins here, not enough championships.
But you listen to Kennedy and what he said Monday night, and you see what Ross and her team and staff did Tuesday night. And if you follow the improvement in facilities and recruiting and competing in every sport being offered by UMAA, then you can see that it's getting closer.
Since it's basketball we're mainly talking here, where do we go from here? With the results this season alone and with what we know these coaches want and need for their programs, it's going to be interesting to see how Ole Miss administrators, alumni, and supporters band together and pull in the same direction, as Kennedy suggests must be done, to move on from here.
This was a good year, but things can be better. If we're listening and watching, we see that it can happen.
And if you anybody tells you Ole Miss can't get it done, tell them to talk to a Terp from this generation and a former one. They'll tell you Ole Miss can.
Just like Andy Kennedy told us Monday night, and just like Carol Ross showed us Tuesday night.
Sweet! Ole Miss women's hoops in the final 16
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