OXFORD, Miss. - The Ole Miss women's basketball team showed off the brilliance of its defense and played superb overall team basketball in a smooth 73-48 victory over Samford on Friday afternoon - the 10th win in a row for the Rebels. Ole Miss is off to its longest winning streak since winning 11 in a row to start the 2000-01 season.
Ole Miss (10-1) set a new school record in its powerful defensive showing on Friday, making Samford (4-8) its eighth opponent this season held under 50 points. The Rebel defense - which entered the day ranked eighth in the NCAA in scoring defense at an average of 49.3 points per game - flexed its muscles all day long, forcing 24 turnovers that turned into 22 Rebel points, the fifth straight game the Rebels have recorded at least 20 takeaways.
"Dictate and disrupt. A lot of people can say that we're supposed to beat these teams, but we've pushed ourselves," said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "We've been on the road, we've been in other people's gyms, we've played a Pac-12 team, we went to Cincinnati. We've been pushing ourselves, and our defense travels. That's one thing I know is legit is defensively, when we're locked in, we're pretty good. We're long, we have size, we have a system, which is to dictate and disrupt. We were pretty good defensively last year, and I want us to continue that momentum in conference."
The Rebels weren't all offense on Friday, though, as preseason national player of the year candidate Shakira Austin put together another dominant performance. Austin ended the day with 20 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two assists and a strong 8-of-10 clip from the charity stripe. Friday constituted her third 20-point outing of the season.
Austin wasn't alone offensively, either, with Destiny Salary using a big second half to end up with 12 points, three rebounds, one steal and one assist - with eight of her points coming in the second half. It was the second double-digit scoring game for Salary this season, which have all come within her last three games. Andeija Puckett notched her first double-digit scoring game of her Ole Miss career, tallying 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go along with three rebounds.
Samford kept things mildly close in the first quarter, trailing 17-14 after the first 10 minutes, but the Rebels separated in large fashion over the middle two quarters, winning the second 21-13 and the third 24-10. The Ole Miss defense put a stranglehold on the Bulldogs from the jump, forcing nine different scoring droughts of at least two minutes in length - highlighted by a whopping 5:34 drought in the second quarter during which the Rebels ripped off a 13-0 run.
Ole Miss now looks to improve its current 10-game win streak when it concludes non-conference action at the West Palm Beach Invitational on Dec. 20-21, where the Rebels will square off against Texas Tech (7-2) and No. 16 South Florida (7-3). The Rebels currently hold a NET of 41, and a win would tie the 11-game win streak set by the 2000-01, 1982-83 and 1975-76 Rebel teams. A sweep would put the Rebels at 12 in a row, which would stand as the best streak since the 1991-92 SEC Champion team won 25 straight.
"The 'Yo, just be honest' type in me is excited because you've been in here when it's been a very rough road, but I expect us to be able to have the performances we've been having," McPhee-McCuin said. "Now, were trying to put things together. As far as how I feel, I'm just super focused on making sure that we clean up the things that we need for conference play. We understand what we're trying to do. I feel like there was a part of the game where we got lost, like we weren't playing Samford, we were in our own zone competing and trying to correct things that we know we need to correct, and that's something that I thought was good. We have a great test with Texas Tech and ranked South Florida on the road, and I'll be able to truly give an assessment once we're done with non-conference play."