Lady Rebs roll early, win big over UL-L

The Ole Miss Lady Rebels got Renee Ladner a victory in her first home game as head coach. Her team bounced back from a season-opening loss a week ago with an 86-60 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Sunday afternoon.

The Lady Rebels stormed out to a 21-4 lead in the game's first eight minutes, and from then on it was likely only a matter of how large the final margin would be. Ladner said she saw some improvement from game one, an 80-59 loss at Nebraska, to game two.

"Each day we've been a work in progress," Ladner said. "For our kids to come out and play with such fire and enthusiasm, I was really excited about that. After our first road trip, which was unsuccessful, we reacted to that pretty badly and were not pleased. So I was just really happy with our effort in the first half today."

Ladner said defensively the Lady Rebs were better in this one, and that's something they coaches had stressed this past week and will continue to stress.

"We did kick it up a notch this week," said Ladner, her record now 1-1 as a collegiate head coach. "Part of it (at Nebraska) was we were mixing up our defense, and our kids are really not mature enough to handle that at this point."

Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Errol Rogers, in his first year, said his team wasn't ready to play at tipoff.

"Our start was terrible," said the former Mississippi State assistant coach. "Our kids didn't play hard the first eight minutes. We let them set the tone, and that was it. We played catch-up the whole game."

And they weren't able to. The Lady Rebs continued to play well throughout the first half, leading by as many as 26 points (41-15) with 1:48 to go before halftime and taking a 42-17 lead into the locker room at intermission.

The Ragin' Cajuns continued to fall further and further behind in the second half. The Ole Miss lead was 31 points at 71-40 with 7:14 left when Shawn Goff scored on a layup with an assist from Shantell Black.

Nine players got double-figure minutes for the Lady Rebels. Goff at the post position was the leading scorer for Ole Miss with 23 points. Elizabeth Robertson had 17 and Black 10.

"When you're as lean as we are, you try to rotate as many people as you can and see who can give you a spark," Ladner said. "I told the kids coming in (to the season) that there were 14 people who had an opportunity, and that everybody was going to have their shot every night of the week."

That number is down a bit as the Lady Rebels have some injuries.

Starting sophomore point guard Alliesha Easley has a torn ACL suffered in the season opener at Nebraska. She will have surgery and is out for the year. Also out for the season is freshman center Kayla Hollwell with a knee injury that has been repaired.

Sophomore guard Bianca Thomas has a muscle injury and did not play Sunday but should return to play this season. Junior forward Brandi Tipton has a sprained MCL and was limited today, playing only four minutes.

Ladner had high praise for point guard Kayla Melson who got the start today.

"I thought Kayla Melson came in and did extremely well," she said of the true freshman who scored nine points with 10 assists and six steals in 29 minutes. "She is a winner and wants to play. She's fiery and wants to lead the team. She has a lot of traits a good point guard must have to lead our team."

Ladner said the win was good, but she remains realistic about how to put this one in perspective.

"Louisiana-Lafayette is in the same boat as I am," she said of Rogers' program. "He's rebuilding. He's trying to get it figured out. His kids are adjusting to him.

"Our kids did a better job of managing the game today (than a week ago)," Ladner continued. "As I said, because of our inexperience, that will be an on-going process."

The Lady Rebels have another chance to get more experience and win another basketball game Tuesday at 7 p.m. when they host Alabama A&M at Tad Smith Coliseum.

"I always tell the kids to enjoy a win tonight, because in the morning we'll be getting ready for the next one, in this case Tuesday night," Ladner said. "This is our gym. This is our home. This is where we have to establish ourselves and defend and protect it to the best of our ability."

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