COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. - A smothering Rebel defense and an unstoppable train named Shakira Austin propelled the Ole Miss women's basketball team to an impressive victory over Samford, 64-45, in the opening round of the 2021 WNIT on Friday night.
Ole Miss (12-11) notched its first postseason win since 2015 in eye-opening fashion, stifling the Bulldogs (14-10) to just 45 points on 34.5 percent shooting - the fewest points ever given up by the Rebels in a postseason game either in the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT. The Rebels were tenacious on the glass too, thrashing Samford to a monster 48-29 edge - the second-most rebounds by Ole Miss in a postseason game as well.
"I'm so proud of how our girls came out," said acting head coach Armintie Herrington, who was filling in for head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin following her positive COVID-19 test earlier this week. "With so much adversity and everything going on, they came out focused and played together and connected. The fourth quarter we struggled, gave up 18 points. We have a goal with each quarter how much we want to hold our opponent, so that quarter we didn't do well. But overall great job from our girls. (Shakira) came out ready to play."
That connectedness was apparent, with nine different Rebels scoring, six with at least four rebounds and six also with at least one assist. However, the fuel for Ole Miss came in the form of First-Team All-SEC star Shakira Austin, who was dominant from the jump. Austin ended with 23 points and 12 rebounds in just 24 minutes played, her 25th career double-double and 11th of the season. Five of her 12 boards came on the offensive glass, where Ole Miss shined all night with a final tally of 19.
Donnetta Johnson served as Austin's main partner in crime, tallying 10 points, four boards and three assists for her 16th double-digit game of the season. Mimi Reid excelled again as the field general for the Rebels, notching seven assists for the seventh time this season to go along with her four points. Madison Scott was a force for Ole Miss on the glass, hauling in nine boards beside her six points. Freshmen Jacorriah Bracey (six points) and Caitlin McGee (four points, seven rebounds, two blocks) remained in rare form after superb outings at the SEC Tournament, McGee in particular serving as a defensive piece for the Rebels. Tiya Douglas was also instrumental on defense with three steals along with her six points.
The Rebels scored half of its 64 points in the paint while only draining one three-pointer on the night, but Ole Miss wouldn't need its perimeter game vs. Samford. The Rebels led for 36:35 of game action, blowing the game wide-open with a 12-0 run in the second quarter that ballooned to a 22-6 run to close the first half. Ole Miss led by as many as 27 in the early stages of the final frame, but the Bulldogs were able to chip into the lead late. However, it was too little, too late as the Rebels hung on to avenge a 2010 loss to Samford in the WNIT First Round - the lone matchup in program history prior to tonight.
Up next, the Rebels will square off against Tulane (18-8) in the Second Round at 8 p.m. CT.