Ole Miss Women’s Basketball Shuts Down Potent No. 13 Arkansas, Advances to SEC Quarterfinal
Published 7:00 am Sunday, March 7, 2021
GREENVILLE, S.C. – Shakira Austin put on a clinic and the Rebel defense shut down one of the most explosive offenses in the nation to advance the Ole Miss women’s basketball team to its first SEC Quarterfinal since 2010 after a 69-60 win over No. 13 Arkansas on Thursday evening in the Second Round of the SEC Tournament.
Ole Miss (11-10) stifled the NCAA’s sixth-best scoring offense to 24 points below its season average and the NCAA’s sixth-best three-point shooting team to nearly 18 percentage points below its season average at 22.6 percent. Arkansas (19-8) shot just 32 percent overall and had to contend with a true team effort from the Rebels, who dominated on the glass, 48-34, and put up 36 points in the paint.
However, it was the stratospheric play of Austin that lifted the Rebels on Thursday, as she dominated the game from the jump. The newly-minted First-Team All-SEC honoree ended up with 29 points and 13 rebounds, the most points by a Rebel in the SEC Tournament since 2009, the most rebounds since 2004, and she became the first with a double-double since 2009 as well.
Donnetta Johnson added 12 points, while freshmen Jacorriah Bracey (seven points) and Caitlin McGee (six points), put in crucial minutes in their best games since Dec. 8 vs. Alcorn State.
“That’s an Arkansas team that beat UConn, you know?” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “That is a legitimate team. They’re going to be a 3 seed, and we beat ’em. My young pups, I had four freshmen on the floor at one time. We are a team that can go in the NCAA tournament and create havoc.”
First-Team All-SEC member Chelsea Dungee again put on a show for Arkansas with her 22 points, but the Rebels forced her to make tough shots and go 9-for-24 from the field. Ole Miss neutralized Arkansas’ deadly three-point game that ended up finishing 7-for-31 and set the defensive tone from the opening tip.
Both teams struggled to score right out of the gate, each going 0-for-5 from the field. Johnson scored the game’s first field goal with a three-pointer just over three minutes into the game. Going into the first timeout with 3:33 left in the quarter, Ole Miss had a 9-5 lead following layups from Austin and Mimi Reid. Two free throws from Valerie Nesbitt capped off a 6-0 Rebel run and her team used another 6-0 run to go up 17-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Razorbacks missed their last 10 shots and ended the quarter going 2-for-17 from the field.
Ramirez snapped a near eight-minute field goal drought with a jump shot two minutes into the second quarter while Dungee began to heat up from the three-point line. With 3:53 left in the first half, Arkansas made four of their last five and Bracey’s three-pointer gave Ole Miss a 25-24 lead. Austin capped off the first half with two heavily contested buckets and a beautiful assist to Johnson. That allowed Ole Miss a 33-28 halftime lead and their first in the SEC Tournament since 2017.
The Rebels shot 35 percent (11-31) from the floor and lead for over 18 minutes of the first half. Austin once again proved to be a tough matchup for the Razorbacks as she had 16 points (5-for-18 FG), her third consecutive double-digit scoring first half. Ole Miss also finished the half going 9-for-10 from the charity stripe while Arkansas went 2-for-6. Despite Arkansas having a better second quarter offensively, Ole Miss forced the Razorbacks to shoot 31 percent (11-for-36) from the floor, including a 4-for-16 mark from three.
Austin continued to be a problem for Arkansas coming out of the locker room as she scored seven quick points and gave Ole Miss a little bit of a cushion. Both teams shot above 60 percent going into the third quarter media timeout with Ole Miss leading 48-40 after five consecutive points. The Razorbacks battled back as Destiny Slocum’s three-point bucket with seconds left in the third quarter cut her team’s deficit to a single possession, trailing 53-52
Ole Miss continued to feed Austin in the paint in order to try and pull away from an Arkansas team still hot. With 4:22 left to play, the Rebels led 61-55 following a Bracey jump shot. Austin found McGee wide open underneath the basket and scored another jumper to go on an 8-0 run and tie Ole Miss’ largest lead of the night, 65-55 before an Arkansas timeout with 3:43 to go. Dungee snapped an over four-minute scoring drought with a three-pointer with 2:42 on the clock to trail by seven. Two consecutive misses from three by Arkansas led to Johnson making two free throws on the other end of the floor to go up 67-58 with a minute and change. While burning the clock and avoiding half court pressure, Johnson made an open layup while Ole Miss sealed the win.
The Rebels will face off against No. 3 seed Tennessee in tomorrow’s quarterfinal round. Tipoff is set for approximately 7:30 p.m. CT following the South Carolina-Alabama game, and can be seen on SEC Network.
• Back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, third ranked win of the season after beating No. 14 Kentucky on Feb. 4 (72-60) and No. 17 Kentucky on Feb. 28 (73-69). In those three wins, Ole Miss is averaging 63.0 points allowed and is holding opponents to 32.5 percent shooting.
• First trip to the SEC quarterfinal since 2010, which at the time was the Second Round of the SEC Tournament before conference expansion to 14 teams in 2013.
• First SEC Tournament win since the First Round of the 2018 Tournament over Florida (48-43).
• Most points scored in the SEC Tournament since the First Round in 2007 vs. Alabama (W, 78-49)
• First halftime lead in the SEC Tournament since 2018 in the First Round vs. Florida (26-19; won 48-43).
• Fewest points allowed to Arkansas since Feb. 28, 2016 (L, 60-49); 28 allowed in the first half the fewest allowed by Ole Miss to Arkansas since Jan. 1, 2017 (26).
• Newcomers accounted for 60 of 69 points scored (87 percent), the second straight game they have accounted for 87 percent of all scoring. Prior to Feb. 28, the last time Ole Miss cracked 80 percent was Jan. 14 vs. Missouri (96.1 percent).
• Shut down Arkansas’s 6th-ranked three-point shooting offense of 40 percent on the season to just 22.6 percent on Thursday.
• Career-high 29 points for Shakira Austin, the fourth-most points ever scored by a Rebel in the SEC Tournament and the most by a Rebel since Bianca Thomas scored 31 vs. Arkansas on March 5, 2009
• 13 rebounds for Austin were the most by a Rebel in the SEC Tournament since 2004 when Tywanna Inmon hauled in 13 vs. Alabama on March 4, 2004.
• Austin is the first Rebel to record a double-double in the SEC Tournament since Shawn Goff had 25 points and 10 rebounds in a 71-65 loss to Auburn on March 6, 2009.
• 20th double-digit scoring game for Shakira Austin. Third straight game scoring in double figures in the first half. Her 16 first-half points were the most in the first half since scoring 17 vs. No. 14 Kentucky on Feb. 4.
• 10th 20-point game for Shakira Austin, her ninth against SEC opponents.
• Most points by Jacorriah Bracey (7) and Caitlin McGee (6) since their games vs. Alcorn State on Dec. 8; Bracey had career-high 12, McGee eight.