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No. 5 Texas A&M Pulls Away Late Over Ole Miss, 66-55

OXFORD, Miss. – The Rebels hung tough with one of the top programs in college basketball for three quarters, but could not pull off the upset as No. 5 Texas A&M edged the Ole Miss women’s basketball team, 66-55, on Senior Day at The Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.

 

Ole Miss (9-9, 3-9 SEC) and Texas A&M (20-1, 11-1 SEC) were engaged in a defensive slugfest for 40 minutes, but the Aggie offense found life late to pull away, winning the fourth quarter 22-16 after entering the frame with a five-point lead. Defense was the name of the game for both teams, which shot a cold 37.5 percent combined. The Aggies entered the day with the NCAA’s ninth-most free throws made and used their prowess on the line to success Sunday, taking advantage of 21 Rebel fouls to go 16-of-23 from the charity stripe – 6-of-7 in the fourth quarter.

 

“A lot of things went well for us and a lot didn’t go well for us. Missed opportunities,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “There were stretches where (Texas A&M) showed a lot of maturity in the fourth quarter. We didn’t answer the call. To beat them, you have to have a complete game, and we didn’t. Our turnovers and fouls just killed us.”

 

The Rebels were no slouches on Sunday, though, stifling the NCAA’s ninth-best shooting team to nearly 10 percent worse than its season average at 39.7 on Sunday. Ole Miss also held a big edge on the glass for the fifth straight game at 43-33 – the first time doing so in five straight SEC games in digitally available records dating back to at least 1997-98.

 

“I think there are five SEC teams that could be in the Final Four. (Texas A&M) were one of them,” McPhee-McCuin said. “They turned it on when they needed to turn it on. We need to make better decisions. The situation is that we have to continue to grow.”

 

The Rebels also finished with a large 34-24 edge in the paint, thanks in part to another superb outing from Lisa Leslie Award nominee Shakira Austin.

 

The Rebel junior notched her fifth straight double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the first at Ole Miss to do so in five consecutive SEC games since All-American (and current assistant coach) Armintie Herrington did so in seven straight during her senior season in 2006-07. Austin has been thoroughly unstoppable in this stretch, averaging 18.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and shooting a blistering 37-of-59 (.627) in the last five games.

 

Austin also inched closer to the career 1,000-point milestone, with her new career total standing at 982. She stands as one of just two active players in the SEC with 950 career points (982), 650 career rebounds (697) and 150 career blocks (156).

 

Taylor Smith and Madison Scott each had double-digit scoring outings coming off the bench. Smith had a season-high 12 points and three trifectas, while Scott had 10 points to go along with six boards. Donnetta Johnson chipped in with eight points and a career-high nine rebounds, while Mimi Reid added in seven assists.

 

Texas A&M forced 18 turnovers and cashed in 16 points off of them. Kayla Wells led the Aggies with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Jordan Nixon had 11 points. Nixon’s nine points in the fourth quarter made a huge difference down the stretch after a tight, gritty affair the majority of the game.

 

After the Aggies took a quick 5-2 lead, the Rebels continued to pound the paint and force a few turnovers to get within one point, down 7-6 going into the first media timeout. The lead proceeded to change numerous times the rest of the opening quarter as Texas A&M led 10-9 by frame’s end. Through 10 minutes, both teams shot less than 30 percent from the floor with Ole Miss outscoring the Aggies 8-2 in the paint.

 

The lead continued to change at a rapid pace all the way through the six-minute mark of the first half, when the Aggies began to break away with a 7-0 run and forcing three turnovers in the process to go up 21-16. Texas A&M kept pace for the remainder of the half as both teams went cold shooting, with the Aggies holding a slim 26-23 halftime edge after a 20-minute defensive battle.

 

The Aggies came out of the locker room rolling, though, jumping out to a nine-point lead four minutes into the second half. However, the lead would dwindle down to 37-32 with 4:14 left in the third quarter after big baskets from Austin and Tiya Douglas (five points). The Aggies answered multiple Rebel buckets and kept said five-point lead, going into the final quarter of play up 44-39.

 

However, Ole Miss failed to capitalize on several occasions, opening the fourth 1-of-8 from the field. The Aggies used a 9-0 run to take their largest lead of the afternoon at 14 with 5:38 remaining in the contest. The Rebels did their best to get back in the game, but Texas A&M finished with the hot hand, sealing the road victory.

 

The Rebels will now hit the road for a two-game stretch, starting with a trip to Columbia on February 25 to take on No. 2 South Carolina at 12 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

 

“We’re going to try to get these next two. Call me crazy, but that’s our goal,” McPhee-McCuin said. “We have to grow through these games if we’re wanting to go to the tournament. We’re playing good teams. Our NET is still high, and it will be after this game. We need a postseason desperately.”

 

Follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissWBB, Facebook at Ole Miss WBB and on Instagram at Ole MissWBB. You can also follow head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin on Twitter at @YolettMcCuin