By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
A five-game win streak has the Ole Miss women’s basketball team playing with confidence and chemistry.
Those are important elements moving forward, both of which will be tested when the schedule ampus up tonight. The Rebels (6-1) travel to face No. 9 Miami.
Tipoff is 6 p.m. The Hurricanes are coming off a 92-81 double overtime win over No. 11 Rutgers and have won 28-straight home games.
The five-game streak for Ole Miss includes wins against South Alabama, Southeast Missouri, Massachusetts, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Grambling.
The Rebels lost at Lamar, 67-58, in their second game of the season.
“Our confidence is sky-high right now,” Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said.
Fueling that confidence is the play of senior center Nikkie Byrd, who is averaging a double-double with 14.6 points and 11.7 rebounds, and sophomore point guard Valencia McFarland, the team’s leading scorer with 14.9 points and 4.7 assists.
“We knew we had a point and a post. We just weren’t sure about our other pieces. Because of the combination of those two things and having those two players play such good basketball, it’s helped everyone,” Ladner said.
So has an in-flux of talented freshmen, including guard Amber Singletary, who Ladner calls the team’s best on-ball defender.
Veterans Whitney Hameth and Pa’Sonna Hope have returned from major knee injuries to play key roles, and freshmen Tia Faleru and Danielle McCray have joined with Singletary as quick-impact players. All three are averaging more than 16 minutes a game.
“Each day is a learning tool. Each day they learn a little bit more, they gain more confidence. It’s hard not to be the star, but their work ethic is incredible. They bring enthusiasm and energy to everything we do, as far as meshing with the upperclassmen. That’s been big for us,” Ladner said.
Ladner says her young players are contributing but are still adjusting to the speed of the game.
She’s hopeful the Rebels will be able to handle Miami’s pressure tonight.
“It’s day to day and game to game. Winning develops confidence.”