OXFORD Miss. - Taylor Manuel (St. Louis, Mo.) had a season-high 28 points but couldn't complete the comeback after trailing by 15 points falling to Grambling 78-75 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday night at The Pavilion. Shandricka Sessom (Byhalia. Miss.) joined Manuel in double figures with 18 points while Shequila Joseph (London, England) added 11 rebounds to lead the Rebels on the glass. The Rebels close the season at 17-14.
Ole Miss (17-14) fought back to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game on a basket from Sessom at the 7:17 mark of the fourth quarter and from that point the score never got more than one possession for either team. The home team led, 75-72 with 1:51 remaining but Grambling sealed the win with a 6-0 run to close the game.
Trailing by 12 out of the halftime Ole Miss opened with back-to-back triples from Erika Sisk (Oxford, Miss.) and Sessom to spark a 8-0 run that cut the once 15 point Grambling lead to four points with just 1:30 seconds off the game clock. Ole Miss tied the game at 48 with a bucket from Manuel. The teams matched each other bucket-for-bucket for the majority of the third quarter and Grambling's lead was just three points at the end of the third quarter.
Ole Miss opened the game on a 6-0 run before a triple from the Lady Tigers got them on the board at the 7:37 mark before Grambling used three consecutive triples to take a 9-6 lead that they extended to 11-8 at the first quarter media timeout. Manuel was a bright spot with 10 first quarter points for her third straight game in double figures. Ole Miss shot just 36.8 percent in first quarter and Grambling shot 52.6 percent on 10-of-19 shooting.
Grambling took a nine point lead in the second quarter, 26-17, before Ole Miss started chipping away and got it to four points, 28-24, on a bucket from Shelby Gibson (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) at the 5:49 mark. Gibson tallied five early points but the Lady Tigers continued to be hot from long range, shooting 40 percent from long range, en route to a 45-33 halftime lead.
From The Head Coach
On the loss... "We didn't play well, didn't play hard in the first half. We let them get going shooting the basketball. That's the one thing I told our kids, was the fact that, if they get going shooting the basketball, they're a good team. They won their league and we let them get comfortable. We didn't guard all night long. There's a lot of positive on this season, but it's frustrating to lose."
On the season... "There are a lot of highlights. I saw some growth from players, I saw some kids take major strides in their games. That's where it's exciting for me. We had wins over Tennessee, Texas A&M, Oregon, got beat by 25 by Auburn and came back and beat them here, those are positive things."
On the seniors... "Two postseasons in four years. To be able to bounce back and get the wins we got this year, those kids really played hard. Taylor Manuel, the last two games has played out of her mind. She's played really well. Shequila Joseph played well, Erika Sisk as been a mark of our program and we're going to miss that. I told all three of those kids I'm extremely proud of them."
-Ole Miss is making its second postseason appearance in the last four seasons. The Rebels reached the third round of the WNIT in 2014-15 and are looking to advance past the third round of the first time in program history. Ole Miss moves to 4-7 in WNIT games in six appearances in the tournament.
-Ole Miss and Grambling are meeting for the seventh time with the Rebels leading the series 6-1 after today's loss. This was the first meeting between the teams in the postseason and the first time Ole Miss has faced a SWAC team in the postseason.
-Thursdays' game is the first-ever postseason game at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
-Taylor Manuel's 28 points are the second most points scored by an Ole Miss player in the WNIT tailing Armintie (Price) Herrington's 31 scored in 2006 against Kansas.
-Shandricka Sessom grabbed 5+ rebounds for the 18th time this season.
-Taylor Manuel reached double figures for the third straight game with 28 for her second 20-point game this season.
The Rebels conclude the 2016-17 season with a 17-14 record. Ole Miss reached the postseason for the second time in four seasons and knocked off a ranked opponent for the third consecutive season while snapping a 26-game losing streak to Tennessee.