So Close

It was an all-too familiar position for the Ole Miss women's basketball team Sunday against Ohio State. They'd been here before.

The names may have changed as well as the opposition. But an unfortunate outcome remained the same in a big-time game.

A 12-0 run to end the game lifted ninth-ranked Ohio State to a 79-77 win against Ole Miss in Oxford Sunday afternoon.

The Rebels led 77-67 on a layup by team leader and senior veteran Bianca Thomas with 2:58 to go but the Buckeyes saved their best for last, according to OSU Coach Jim Foster.

"We talked about certain things all through the game, and we started to do them," Foster said, after his team improved to 10-1. "You've got to get stops, and you've got to get rebounds. And you've got to stay in front of the ball. When we started to do that, we got rebounds. We felt we were getting good shots, so it was all about stopping them. We were able to do that down the stretch."

Ole Miss, now 6-3, had its chances. Leading 77-72, the Rebels missed a couple of key shots, but each time got the rebound and backed the ball out to run some clock. Katorra Lewis was fouled but missed two free throws with 1:29 left.

After OSU's Tayler Hill made a free throw and missed one to cut the Ole Miss lead to 77-73 with 1:19 left, Ole Miss' LaKendra Lewis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that would have given the Rebels more cushion.

When Hill nailed a 3-pointer for OSU to pull her team to within a point at 77-76 with 1:01 to go, the Rebels were on their heels a bit but still with a chance for the upset.

After a Rebel turnover and foul, Andrea Walker made two free throws with 16 seconds left to give the visitors a 78-77 lead. Kayla Melson missed a layup for the Rebels with 12 seconds to go, and Thomas fouled OSU's Samantha Prahalis.

A miss and a make at the line by Prahalis gave the Rebels a shot, down two points with 4.7 seconds to go. But a 3-pointer by Elizabeth Robertson missed its mark.

The statistics weighed heavily in Ohio State's favor. The Buckeyes shot 48 percent to the Rebels' 42 percent. On the boards, OSU had the better of it 44 to 36, and five players scored in double figures. Yet Ole Miss was able to lead throughout much of the game and have its shot to win at the end.

"I'm extremely proud of the effort today," said Ole Miss Coach Renee Ladner, her team the last couple of years finding itself in similar positions such as Sunday. "You look down at the stat sheet. They had 46 points in the paint. They had 20 points from their bench. When I see all those stats, if I didn't know the score, I would think that would be a blowout. Nevertheless we found ways to keep digging and making plays, even when I thought at times the odds were against us.

"I'm happy with the effort," Ladner continued, "but sad that we missed a great opportunity."

Ole Miss led 36-35 at halftime and built on that advantage throughout the second half. With three minutes left, it appeared the Rebels had things just where they wanted them.

"We take it to heart every time we lose," said Thomas, who led three Ole Miss players in double figures with 25 points; Kayla Melson and Shantell Black had 16 each. "We're a good team. Ohio State's a great team. Great teams finish. We're trying to be great like Ohio State."

Ladner agreed.

"They did what great teams do," she said of the Buckeyes. "Teams in the Top 10 are going to find a way."

As Ohio State did on this day.

Ole Miss travels to play at Texas Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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