By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Mississippi State and Ole Miss enter their women’s basketball game today both needing a win but for vastly different reasons.
No. 14 MSU (21-6, 8-5 SEC) is playing for NCAA tournament seeding and trying to distance itself from a disappointing 23-point home loss to Kentucky.
Ole Miss (10-16, 2-11 SEC) is just trying to win for the simple sake of winning as it hopes to end a seven-game skid. The Rebels are 1-11 in their last 12 games.
Ole Miss coach Matt Insell says it’s not as bad as it seems and that his team will play hard against MSU, which easily handled the Rebels 79-51 on Jan. 18.
“We will play hard. We did not play well at State, and our kids got embarrassed there. They’ve had this game circled since they left Starkville,” Insell said.
MSU coach Vic Schaefer says he expects nothing less.
“I’m sure Ole Miss is excited about playing us at home in a big game knowing we didn’t play very well (Thursday),” he said. “Gosh, I’d probably be pretty excited about playing us too.”
There have been flashes of what Insell hopes the Ole Miss program will become. One came when the Rebels knocked off then No.-9 Kentucky 73-65 in Oxford on Jan. 21.
That’s the Kentucky team that beat MSU 83-60 on Thursday night.
If not for the win over Kentucky, Ole Miss would be toting a 12-game losing streak instead of seven-game losing streak.
A Rebels team that lost one of the top post players in program history, Tia Faleru, has no consistent inside presence. Insell has recruited to the post and has newcomers arriving that he believes will make an impact in 2017. For now the Rebels are too reliant on jump shots that are guarded more closely because there’s no threat in the lane.
The Rebels showed another of those flashes in a 57-51 loss at No. 24 Tennessee on Thursday.
“We’ve closed the gap to where we’re not have 7- to 8-minute droughts, but now it’s like two or three possessions where we don’t execute,” Insell said.
Ole Miss rallied from a nine-point deficit with 7 minutes, 40 seconds to play to lead Tennessee 51-50 on two Ericka Sisk free throws at the 2:39 mark.
Scoring from the field was another story. Ole Miss didn’t hit a basket the final 4:26 of the game and couldn’t make the one-point lead stand up.
Schaefer says today’s game will tell a lot about the Lady Bulldogs.
“When you have a team like we have that’s pretty young and very immature, there are two ways you can go,” he said. “I think you’re going to find out which direction this team is headed for the rest of the year.”