By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Kenyotta Jenkins’ putback turned out to be the best snake-bite ointment money could buy.
The Potts Camp native scored with a rebound off a Valencia McFarland miss with 0.8 seconds on the overtime clock, and Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State 87-85 in overtime before a crowd of 1,107 fans at Tad Smith Coliseum on Thursday night.
It was the Rebels’ first SEC win under new coach Matt Insell and ended a 10-game SEC losing streak for the program.
Tia Faleru had 29 points and 15 rebounds, and McFarland had 27 points, 12 assists and five steals.
The Rebels had four players play 40-plus minutes led by McFarland’s 45.
Ole Miss had not won an SEC game since beating MSU 65-51 last on Feb. 14 of last year.
Insell had high expectations with 17.8 seconds left in overtime with McFarland, his leading scorer at the free throw line in a tie game. McFarland missed wide right on the first and wide left on the second.
At that point Insell didn’t know when the Rebels (10-10, 1-5 SEC) might break through in the conference.
“I was concerned if (the day) was coming. You get Valencia McFarland, the best point guard in the league on the line to shoot two free throws, and she misses both of them. I’m like, ‘Man, what have I done? Am I snake-bit? Please let something good happen here.’”
It took almost the complete overtime, but something good did indeed happen.
Jenkins, who had struggled defensively, tipped a pass meant for Ketara Chapel. A scramble ensued, and the ball went out of bounds off of MSU with 8.2 seconds left.
McFarland attacked the zone defense of the Bulldogs (14-6, 1-5 SEC) from the right side. She didn’t get the bucket or the foul, but she got Jenkins to finish the job.
“I work on that off-side tip-in like every day in practice,” Jenkins said. “I just knew that I had to get it to go in to win the game.”
MSU shot over 60 percent for most of the first half with a fast start by forward Breanna Richardson, who had 16 points in the half.
Richardson’s fourth foul came with 15:21 left in the game, and she played only seven minutes in the second half.
“I had possession of the ball, and I ended up on the floor with the ball,” Richardson said. “There were ticky-tack fouls, but if I stay out of foul trouble it changes the game.”
MSU coach Vic Schaefer commented on the foul call only with his facial expression but said he didn’t get things done at the end of the game.
“I’ve got to get those kids home. It’s my job. In a four-point game up or down, a coach has to get them home, and I didn’t get them home tonight,” he said.