By The Associated Press
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — A comeback early in the second half gave Ole Miss upset hopes — then reality set in with one quick Miami surge.
The Rebels pulled within four points midway through the second half before the No. 9 Hurricanes scored 11 straight points to end the threat and pull away for a 76-48 win.
Riquna Williams scored 17 points, 13 in the second half, to lead the Hurricanes.
“I think we played very well for about 30 minutes against a very good Miami basketball team,” Mississippi coach Renee Ladner said. “We changed defenses at halftime and that helped us a little bit and just when we thought we figured it out, Riquna Williams stood up and ignited (Miami).”
The Rebels rallied from a 34-22 halftime deficit and outscored the Hurricanes 11-1 in the first 6:20 of the second half. Whitney Hameth keyed the run with six points.
Nikki Byrd’s put-back basket with 10:09 remaining reduced Miami’s lead to 44-40.
Williams’ second 3-pointer with 9:43 remaining increased it to 47-40.
“It’s been a long week with finals and basketball,” Williams said. “I know that normally when coach is yelling she’s not enjoying the game. We just wanted to make sure she was smiling.”
“To be honest I wasn’t feeling it tonight because of the pressures of the week. I just went out and did it.”
The win was Miami’s 29th straight at home, while the loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Mississippi.
“We were flat coming out in the second half,” Miami coach Katie Meier said. “Our second wave, our reinforcements, didn’t score but went in with some energy and wore the other team down.
“When our starters came back in, we were fresh against a fatigued Ole Miss team and we were able to blow the game open with some special performances.”
Byrd scored 10 points to lead the Rebels (6-2).
“This is the real world of college basketball,” Ladner said. “Miami has an outstanding team and an outstanding coach. Playing in this type of environment can really help us.”
Miami ran off 11 unanswered points and took an 11-3 lead in the first 6:03.
Byrd, the Rebels’ leading scorer, sat out 14 minutes of the first half with foul trouble and played only 18 minutes.
“Had that not happened, we would have been in a dogfight the entire game,” Meier said. “But it was partially our scouting. We wanted to go at her and get her in foul trouble.”
Shenise Johnson’s 3-pointer with 8:32 remaining in the first half gave the Hurricanes their first double-digit lead at 18-6.
“They put a lot of pressure and take the offense away from you,” Ladner said. “Their game plan is to pick you up full court and beat you the last 10 minutes.”