In a battle between teacher and student, Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell finally got the best of his teacher in a 67-59 upset win over the No. 13 Kentucky at Tad Smith Coliseum on Monday night. It marked the Rebels’ first win over a top-15 team since 2009-10, as well as the first time they have won two games over a ranked opponent since 2009-10.
“What a great win for our program in year two of a process that we started a year ago,” Insell said. “This basketball team continues to develop each and every day. I asked them to take a chance. We were 5-8 (in SEC play), and we know we have to get 8-8 to have a chance to be in the NCAA Tournament.
“I said take a chance and have no regrets, and you can’t say enough about how hard our girls played. They put everything they had into preparation for this game and then they put it out there on the court. It was magical. It was a great win for our program and a great win for our process. To beat a team like Kentucky, a program like that, it’s huge.”
Four Rebels scored in double figures, led by senior forwards Tia Faleru (Ozark, Alabama) and Danielle McCray (West Palm Beach, Florida). Faleru led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds, while McCray recorded her first double-double of the season with 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. The duo also helped the Rebels (16-11, 6-8 Southeastern Conference) win the rebounding battle, 49-46.
Junior guard Gracie Frizzell (Little Rock, Arkansas), making her fourth start of the season, sparked the Rebels with 15 points, going 5-for-9 from the field, all from 3-point range, while sophomore guard Erika Sisk (Oxford, Mississippi) finished with 10 points and eight assists and freshman forward Kelsey Briggs (Memphis, Tennessee) added seven points and five rebounds off the bench.
Defensively, Ole Miss limited Kentucky (19-8, 8-6 SEC) to its second-lowest scoring output of the season and 32.3 percent shooting, their third-lowest mark of the season. The Rebels also forced 15 turnovers, many in key spots, as they held the Wildcats to just 3-for-11 shooting and forced four turnovers in the final eight minutes of the game.
“With eight minutes to go in the game, I told them we had to make 50-50 plays,” Insell said. “The only way we’re winning the game is if we make 50-50 plays. Every loose ball, we had to get. Out of the last 10 possessions of the game, we got eight stops. We worked a lot on defense in the summer, fall and this year, and it’s starting show. I was really proud of our defensive effort.”
In a first half that featured six ties and 10 lead changes, Ole Miss used a late 11-3 run, to take a 26-23 lead with 2:59 left. Kentucky answered with a 6-0 run of their own, before Frizzell hit a 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds to send the game into halftime tied 29-29. It was her fourth 3-pointer of the half, giving her a game-high 12 points.
“You win games by owning momentum in the last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half,” Insell said. “Her 3-pointer there got us the momentum going into the second half. We wouldn’t have won the game with that shot.”
Kentucky briefly regained a 41-39 lead, before Ole Miss answered with an 11-4 run, sparked by a corner 3-pointer by freshman A’Queen Hayes (Horn Lake, Mississippi) as the shot clock expired to put the Rebels up 42-41 with 12:23 left. Kentucky battled back to tie the game at 50-50 going into the under-eight media timeout, but Ole Miss would not relinquish the lead.
Leading 55-53 with 4:20 left, Ole Miss got three straight stops on the defensive end, while Faleru and McCray scored big baskets on the offensive end to give the Rebels a 59-53 left with 2:21 left, and it remained a two-possession game the rest of the way.
The Rebels close out the regular season, looking to improve their SEC standing and enhance their NCAA Tournament resume with Senior Night against LSU on Thursday night (6 p.m. CT, SEC Network+), followed by the season finale on the road at Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Net.
“We have won two in a row and we have a chance down the stretch,” Insell said. “8-8 is the mark we have to get to. We have said that from day one, 8-8 or better. We have two left. We control our own destiny down the stretch. You go 8-8, and you put yourself back in the NCAA Tournament picture.”
Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics