By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Taylor Manuel, a post-graduate transfer center in her final game, scored a season-high 28 points, but it wasn’t enough for Ole Miss at home.
The Rebels rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit but couldn’t sustain the momentum and were eliminated from the Women’s NIT in a 78-75 loss to Grambling State at The Pavilion Thursday night.
Ole Miss, with wins against Oregon, Tennessee and Texas A&M, started quickly but fell behind and struggled with the SWAC co-champs.
Rebels coach Matt Insell cited the progress in a team that improved from two SEC wins to six this season.
“We can’t let this derail our momentum. We’ve got to keep pushing forward, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Grambling led by as much as 15 in the first half and eventually held a 45-33 edge at the break. The Lady Tigers were 6 for 13 from 3-point range, most of that from 5-foot-9 guard Monisha Neal, who found open shots and knocked down 4 of 5.
Grambling went 15-4 against the SWAC but went 2-9 in the non-conference, the wins against Louisiana-Monroe and Southeastern Louisiana.
Ole Miss (17-14) led 75-72 on a Shandricka Sessom 3-pointer with 1 minute, 51 seconds to play but gave up a 3-pointer to Grambling’s Jazmine Torian on the defensive end.
The Rebels looked to Manuel twice in the final minute. With the game still tied at 75 she caught the ball farther away from the goal than she prefers and missed with 36 seconds left.
After a Grambling bucket and an Ole Miss timeout Erika Sisk’s pass to Manuel was long and out of bounds.
The Lady Tigers (19-14) shot only 39.1 percent for the game but at least 50 percent in the first and fourth quarters.
The Rebels were 5 for 23 from 3-point range.
Insell said injuries led to a lack of perimeter depth and poor shooting at season’s end.
“Shandricka and Madinah (Muhammad), as well as they shot the ball earlier in the year, their legs started to go on them, because they had to play so many minutes. That takes a toll.”