On a day that saw Ole Miss honor lone senior Shawn Goff in its final regular season game, the Rebels fell to LSU 59-48 Sunday afternoon.
In possibly her final game inside Tad Smith Coliseum, Goff struggled to find the net, finishing with only seven points on 3-of-17 shooting. With the loss, the team drops to 16-13 overall and 5-9 in SEC play.
"In all honesty, I thought they bottled-up very well on her," Ole Miss head coach Renee Ladner said of Goff's difficulties. "When she tried to use her speed against them, they pushed her outside the paint. That was probably by design. She settled for jump shots. I thought she could have taken them off the dribble a lot. She opted for a jump shot instead."
The Tigers (17-9, 10-4) came out of the gates quickly, converting three consecutive jumpers for a 6-0 lead. A turnaround make by sophomore Kayla Melson got Ole Miss on the board, sparking a 10-0 run for the home team.
Four points by Kristen Morris ended LSU's scoring drought and tied the game at 10 apiece. Allison Hightower followed with a bucket for a two point lead, and then took advantage of one of Ole Miss' 10 turnovers of the half, to trigger a 2-on-2 fast break score.
Trailing 14-10, Melson followed an Alliesha Easley miss for a basket plus the foul. The free throw try was unsuccessful.
After two free throws from reigning SEC Freshman of the Week LaSondra Barrett gave the Tigers a four point lead, Easley dialed long distance for the Rebels, cutting the deficit to one at 16-15.
Bianca Thomas missed on a backdoor cut to the basket, and Katherine Graham connected on a jumper for LSU, as the Tigers led 18-15 at the 7:42 mark.
Empty possessions on both ends followed, until an up-and-under by Barrett gave her team a five point advantage. Ayana Dunning scored another, before three points by Ole Miss cut the lead to four.
Latera Eason made good on an 18-foot jumper to keep LSU ahead, until Thomas finally scored from the field for a 24-20 score. The Lady Rebels would score only two more points compared to four for the Tigers the rest of the way, with the score 28-22 in favor of LSU at halftime.
LSU only added to their lead in the second, leading by as much as 17 for the period. Four-straight points increased their advantage to 10, before Thomas grabbed a Goff miss for a two-point bucket. Trailing 34-24, Goff added two more with 16:05 left in regulation.
Baskets from Barrett and Hightower pushed the Tigers ahead by 12 at 38-28, but Thomas again connected from the field to keep the Lady Rebels within striking distance. However, Barrett continued with her strong afternoon, connecting on two consecutive shot attempts.
With timeout on the floor at the 12:05 mark, Ole Miss trailed 42-28. A 5-0 spurt gave LSU their largest advantage of the game at 47-30, but the Lady Rebels refused to go down without a fight.
A 10-0 run brought the score within double-digits at 47-40, but the ladies would get no closer. Hightower kept Ole Miss at bay, scoring four more points. Kristen Morris added two more, as LSU led 53-42 with 3:48 to go.
Each team scored six points to finish the game, with the final score 59-48 as time expired.
"It wasn't a good day for the Rebels," said Ladner. "I didn't think we executed our gameplan. When we finally started kicking into gear, it was a little too late. I have to give LSU a lot of credit. They did a good job defensively. You can't shoot 28 percent and win games."
Former Ole Miss head coach Van Chancellor was successful in his first return to Tad Smith Coliseum since his departure in 1997.
Chancellor served as head coach at Ole Miss from 1978-97 and comprised a 439-154 record in 19 years.
"It's really good to come back home and get a win," he said after his team improved to 17-9. "I'm amazed at our team. We basically have one experienced player. To finish 10-4 and third in this league, I think is a much bigger accomplishment for them than winning a championship was for that team last year. They play hard on every play and are really unselfish. We're not a great shooting team or a great rebounding team. But we play within ourselves. We know what we have to do to win and we find a way."
Melson paced the Lady Rebels with 13 points and four rebounds, while Bianca Thomas added 12 points and five rebounds for the game.
With the loss to LSU and an Arkansas loss to Auburn Sunday, Ole Miss will be the No. 9 seed in next week's SEC Tournament, while the Razorbacks will be the No. 8 seed. LSU receives a first-round bye.
Ole Miss and Arkansas meet Thursday at 12 p.m. in North Little Rock, Ark.
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