Ole Miss coach McPhee-McCuin agrees to new contract

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 04 SEC Women's Tournament - Ole Miss Rebels v Florida Gators
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OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi women’s basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin has agreed to a new contract running through 2026 after leading the Rebels to their first NCAA Tournament in 15 years.

The school announced the new deal on Thursday but didn’t disclose details.

McPhee-McCuin led Ole Miss to its first NCAA Tournament since 2007 in her fourth season. The Rebels set a single-season school record with 142 blocked shots and held 10 opponents under 50 points.

Ole Miss won 10 Southeastern Conference games and had its best league finish since 1993. A No. 24 ranking in the Associated Press poll on Jan. 24 was the Rebels’ first appearance since 2007.

Center Shakira Austin became the highest drafted Ole Miss player when she was selected third overall by the Washington Mystics in the April WNBA draft.

Ole Miss enters AP women’s poll for 1st time in 15 years

Justin Ford-Commerical Appeal
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Unbeaten on the road this season, Mississippi entered The Associated Press women’s basketball poll for the first time in 15 years, coming in at No. 24.

The Rebels (17-2) have won their first seven games away from home, including a victory over then-No. 23 Kentucky on Sunday. The last Top 25 ranking for Ole Miss was January 2007.

“Fifteen years is crazy,” Mississippi coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “I told them before the Kentucky game that I had been downplaying the whole ranking deal and I apologized to them for that. I didn’t think it was fair of me. I said if you want to get ranked, go ahead and beat Kentucky and be ranked.”

That unblemished mark will be put to the test Thursday when the Rebels visit No. 1 South Carolina in a rescheduled game. The Gamecocks received 29 of the 30 first-place votes from a national media panel to remain the top team in the poll.

McPhee-McCuin was excited to see where her team stacks up against the best in the country and knows a win would put the Rebels one step closer to their goal of making the NCAA Tournament.

“If you’re serious about basketball and competition, how are you not pumped up to play the No. 1 team in the country?” she said. “We were pretty bummed when COVID took that away from us early.”

Stanford, North Carolina State, Tennessee and Louisville round out the top five. The Wolfpack rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Cardinals last Thursday and take command of the ACC.

Indiana remained sixth and was followed by Michigan, Arizona, Texas and UConn. The Longhorns jumped up six spots after beating then-No. 7 Iowa State on Sunday. The Cyclones fell to 13th.

The Huskies were supposed to play South Carolina on Thursday, but Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley says her team needs to complete its SEC schedule “to keep ourselves in the running for a conference title.” One of the few dates Ole Miss had open was Thursday.

UConn will visit DePaul on Wednesday to make-up a game lost when the Huskies had COVID-19 issues.

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Kansas State center Ayoka Lee broke the NCAA Division I single-game women’s scoring record Sunday, piling up 61 points against then-No. 14 Oklahoma. She bested the previous mark by a point and helped the No. 25 Wildcats re-enter the poll this week.

Lee is second in the country in scoring, averaging 25.5 points. She is right behind Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, who last week became the first player in NCAA history to record consecutive 30-point triple-doubles.

JUMPING BACK INTO THE POLL

Oregon finally is healthy and the Ducks are showing it on the court.

Oregon returned to the Top 25 this week at No. 19 after beating UConn last week. It was the team’s second consecutive win over a top-10 opponent (Arizona). Kelly Graves’ team started the season at No. 10 before injuries to stars Nyara Sabally, Endyia Rogers and Te-Hina Paopao. Now with the team healthy the Ducks are looking to reclaim their spot atop the conference.

FALLING OUT

Kentucky is out of the Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 19, 2018. The Wildcats had been ranked for 65 consecutive weeks which was the eighth longest active run. North Carolina and Florida Gulf Coast also dropped out of the poll.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Arizona at Stanford, Sunday. A rematch of last season’s NCAA championship game that the Cardinal won 54-53. Stanford sits atop the Pac-12 while Arizona is currently in fourth.

Joyner scores 20, Mississippi beats No. 18 Memphis 67-63

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OXFORD, Miss. — When Mississippi coach Kermit Davis scanned the final stat sheet, he chose the obvious explanation after the Rebels defeated No. 18 Memphis 67-63 on Saturday.

“It’s free throws. We analyze a lot of things as coaches and sometimes it’s real simple” Davis said. “It wasn’t a pretty game offensively for either team, but it was good for us at the end.”

The Rebels (6-2), led by Jarkel Joyner with 20 points and eight rebounds, built a 62-51 lead on a jumper by Luis Rodriguez with 2:10 remaining. They relied on the free throw shooting to send Memphis (5-3) to its third straight loss.

Nysler Brooks made three free throws in the final 32 seconds to preserve the win.

Matthew Murrell added 19 points for the Rebels, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. Ole Miss shot 18 of 51 (35%) from the field, but compensated by hitting eight 3-point shots and going 23 of 29 (79%) from the free-throw line.

“It was big for me, but it was big for all of us,” said Murrell, a Memphis native. “I had been waiting for this game since COVID canceled it last year. I’ve played against these guys all my life and this was big.”

DeAndre Williams scored 13 points and Earl Timberlake had 11 points for Memphis, which closed to 63-61 with 14 seconds remaining on a pair of foul shots by Tyler Harris.

“We did a lot of positive things in a hostile environment,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “We didn’t do enough at the end to finish the game.”

The Tigers had two turnovers in the final seconds and 20 overall.

Memphis struggled from the field, shooting 19 of 49 (38%) from the field and only 2 of 11 (18%) from the 3-point line. The Tigers were 23 of 37 (62%) from the free-throw line.

“If we hit the free throws in the first half, we are up,” Hardaway said. “It’s a whole different game. We missed plenty of free throws and it made a big difference.”

INJURY STATUS

In the opening minute of the second half, Ole Miss forward Robert Allen crumpled in the corner in front of the Memphis bench with a left knee injury. Allen returned to the bench with the help of crutches in the final three minutes.

“He will have an MRI tomorrow,” Davis said. “We just don’t know but it could be serious. Just hate it for him.”

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: After an impressive start, the Tigers have not played well since Thanksgiving. The chemistry and talent have not meshed and Hardaway has not been shy about challenging his veterans to make it work. The schedule provides no favors as more highly regarded SEC opponents, No. 16 Alabama and No. 13 Tennessee, follow a dangerous 6-1 Murray State before Christmas.

“We’re going to play the players that care about this team, this program, this city,” Hardaway said. “It’s a tug of war in the locker room about who is the man and that’s not how it supposed to be. I haven’t played the players that care enough and that’s on me.”

Ole Miss: Flying under the national radar, the Rebels got a postseason tournament resume-building win prior to SEC play. The Rebels are 4-0 against ranked opponents stretching back to last season. Davis, with a well-earned reputation for multiple player rotations, mixed the right defensive combinations against increasingly frustrated Memphis.

“This was important to our players and it’s a win that means a lot,” Davis said. “Memphis will be just fine and they’ll win a lot of games. But good for us today.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A third consecutive loss figures to drop Memphis from the poll, especially since no three-loss teams are ranked.

UP NEXT

Memphis: The Tigers host Murray State on Friday.

Ole Miss: The Rebels, with a four-game homestand before Christmas, host Western Kentucky on Saturday.

Morsell scores 22, Lewis 21; Marquette beats Ole Miss 78-72

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CHARLESTON, S.C.- Darryl Morsell scored 22 points, Justin Lewis added a career-best 21 points and nine rebounds and Marquette beat Mississippi 78-72 Thursday night in the opening round of the Charleston Classic.

Marquette plays West Virginia in the semifinals, and OIe Miss takes on Elon in the loser’s bracket, on Friday.

Lewis hit a career-high five of Marquette’s 13 3-pointers and Morsell made 9 of 10 from the foul line, where the Golden Eagles shot 90% (17 of 19). Ole Miss (2-1) made just 6 of 15 free throws.

Marquette (4-0), coming off a win over No. 10 Illinois last Monday, made just two of its first 10 shots and trailed 17-5 about 6 minutes in, but David Joplin hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the deficit to five at the break. Lewis scored the Golden Eagles’ first 11 second-half points, including a pair of 3s 27 seconds apart before Morsell added another to give them their first lead of the game at 47-46 with 13:13 to go.

There were six lead changes and four ties before Lewis and Joplin each hit a 3-pointer in a 10-1 spurt that gave Marquette the lead for good at 67-60 with 3:55 to go.

Morsell, a fifth-year graduate transfer from Maryland, has scored at least 21 points in each game this season. The 6-foot-5 guard, who was the Big Ten player of the year last season, never had a 20-point game in four years with the Terrapins.

Jarkel Joiner and Nysier Brooks scored 13 points apiece and Jaemyn Brakefield added 11 for Ole Miss.

Marquette scored 17 points off 11 Rebels turnovers and added 14 second-chance points of just six offensive rebounds.

Freshman Cam Johnson, who scored 15 points in the first three games of the season, had 18 points for the Golden Eagles.

Mississippi’s Kermit Davis agrees to new four-year contract

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OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi coach Kermit Davis has agreed to a new four-year contract running through 2025 just a week before his fourth season opens.

Keith Carter, the Ole Miss vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, announced the deal on Tuesday. Ole Miss didn’t release details of the contract.

“Starting with his first season when he was SEC coach of the year, coach Davis has increased the expectations of Ole Miss basketball,” Carter said in a statement.

Davis has led the Rebels to two postseason appearances in his first three seasons. The 2020 postseason was canceled because of COVID-19.

Davis originally signed a four-year contract that paid a base salary of $2.5 million annually when he was hired in 2018. He received a new deal in March 2019.

Ole Miss was a No. 1 seed in the NIT before falling in the first round last season. The Rebels made the NCAA Tournament in his first season after being picked to finish last in the Southeastern Conference, and Davis was named the league’s coach of the year.

“I’m very proud of what we are building here on and off the court, and I am extremely excited about this year’s team,” Davis said.

Davis has signed the two highest ranked recruits in program history, Matthew Murrell and Daeshun Ruffin.

Ole Miss opens the regular season against New Orleans on Nov. 9.

Mulkey, Schwartz lead Rice past Ole Miss for WNIT title

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Nancy Mulkey had 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks, Lauren Schwartz also scored 19 points and added five assists, and Rice beat Mississippi 71-58 on Sunday in the championship game of the WNIT.

Rice (23-4), which won the 2017 WBI, won its first WNIT title.

Mulkey, the back-to-back-to-back Conference USA defensive player of the year, made 9 of 11 from the field. Jasmine Smith added 11 points, nine rebounds and four steals for the Owls.

Donetta Johnson made a layup that gave Ole Miss (15-12) its first lead with 6:12 left in the first quarter but Schwartz answered with a layup on the other end just 18 seconds later and Rice led the rest of the way.

Shakira Austin, the only Rebels player to score in double figures, finished with 25 points on 10-of-25 shooting. The rest of the Ole Miss team combined to make 11 of 45 (24.4%) from the field.

Rice overcame its 24 turnovers by shooting 50% (25 of 50) from the field and making all its 17 free-throw attempts, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

After India Bellamy made two free throws to give the Owls a 58-44 lead with 7:21 to play, Ole Miss used a 10-0 run to trim its deficit to four points about three minutes later. Smith sandwiched two pairs of foul shots around two free throws by Katelyn Crosthwait to push Rice’s lead back into double figures with three minutes to go and the Rebels never again threatened.

The previous two WNIT champions, Arizona and Indiana, are in the Elite Eight of the 2021 Women’s NCAA Tournament.