January 21, 2019 9:53:29 AM
OXFORD -- Senior Shandricka Sessom had 19 points and six rebounds Sunday to lead the Ole Miss women's basketball team to a 76-66 victory against Florida at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
The victory marks the first time in two years that the Rebels (8-11, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) have won consecutive games in the league.
Ole Miss shot a SEC season-high 50.9 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range, and 87.5 percent from the free-throw line.
"What the win at Kentucky did was to allow us to coach harder, and the young ladies to be a little bit more open," Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. "They're locked in. They believe. They trust, and that takes a long time to happen, and it's really tough to convince someone to trust when you're not winning."
Senior La'Karis Salter had career highs with 18 points and five assists, as well as five rebounds and one block. Sessom and Salter combined for 15 of Ole Miss' 22 Ole Miss points in the first quarter, as well as 21 of the 34 Rebel points at halftime.
"I think the biggest thing for us is coming out and playing hard and making the first punch," Salter told SEC Network following the game. "We had some rough losses in the beginning and even here, so I think our first step was to just come out with energy. Be energetic. This is our home court, protect our home court, and just come out and fight, and that was our goal for 40 minutes."
Despite being outscored 22-14 by the Rebels in the third quarter, Florida used a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to cut the Ole Miss lead to 58-56 with 7 minutes, 9 seconds left to play. But freshman Taylor Smith hit a layup before a Salter 3-pointer made it 63-56 with 5:40 left to play.
Smith, who also put up a career day with nine points, had what Coach Yo defined as the play of the game with 4:45 left to play, getting tied up for a jump ball for the Rebels. The steal forced a big team celebration on the baseline. Ole Miss used that momentum and some timely free throw shooting to earn the victory.
"Everyone loves winning," McPhee-McCuin said. "When we win, it's not hard to get them pumped up to get another one. The hardest one is the first one, and we got over that hump with Kentucky."
Crystal Allen, the SEC's second-leading scorer entering the game at 18.5 points per game, was held scoreless for the first 27:15, but she still ended up with 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds. She was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
"It's good to know that we're trending upwards," McPhee-McCuin said. "I still believe we will probably play our best basketball in March. I believe that we're a month behind most teams, but that's good news. We are in a good place. Everyone is excited. Everyone is excited to represent Ole Miss."
Ole Miss will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, to take on Vanderbilt on Thursday. It hasn't won in Nashville since Jan. 8, 1987. Ole Miss will shoot for its first three-game winning streak in the SEC since the 2014-15 season.
"We've been through a lot," McPhee-McCuin said. "When you lose, you go through things, and you realize that the only way out is together. We believe in each other, and the camaraderie is definitely growing each day."
n LSU 62, Alabama 56: At Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Khayla Pointer scored a career-high 26 points and had six rebounds and three steals Sunday to lead the Lady Tigers (12-6, 3-3) past the Crimson Tide (10-9, 2-4) at Coleman Coliseum.
Faustine Aifuwa had 11 points and eight boards. Ayana Mitchell added 10 points and had six rebounds.
"Our kids hung tough," LSU coach Nikki Fargas. "We changed up our defensive scheme. We really wanted to make sure that we're not leaving players wide open. We mixed up playing some of our man, some of our matchup. Our team did a nice job of being aggressive."
LSU outscored Alabama 20-10 in the second quarter and led by as many as 11 points.
Pointer took over the offense in the second quarter, scoring 13 points.
"For her to give us that type of performance in the paint, that set the tone for us," Fargas said of Pointer's career day.
Junior Cierra Johnson tied her career-high with 27 points and went 14-for-16 from the free-throw line for the Crimson Tide.
"You have to credit LSU," Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. "Things did not go their way earlier in the week and we had some things going good for us earlier in the week. I was disappointed. I think there is a big difference in today's game, and you look up and your five spot has 27 (points), 11 (rebounds, and five blocks (on Thursday) and today have seven (points), nine (rebounds), and two (blocks)."
Sophomore Jasmine Walker had 13 points and five rebounds for Alabama.
After the Lady Tigers stretched their lead to 40-28 at the 7-minute, 28-second mark of the third quarter, the Crimson Tide went on a 14-8 run to close the quarter and cut LSU's lead to 48-42 entering the final period.
With LSU leading 57-47 with 5:40 to play, Johnson hit two free throws after she was fouled on a 3-pointer and a technical was issued to the LSU bench. The spurt shrunk the Lady Tigers' lead to 57-52 with 3:37 remaining.
With 1:57 to go, a layup by sophomore Ariyah Copeland brought the Crimson Tide within 57-54, but that was as close as they managed.
Alabama will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to take on the Arkansas at 7 p.m. Thursday (SEC Network +).
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