OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – An offensive explosion from Deja Cage and a double-double from Iyanla Kitchens helped lead the Ole Miss women’s basketball team to a 66-42 victory over ULM at The Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought our team did a lot of good stuff,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “We have some things we need to improve on, but a lot of people got better in a lot of situations. This is what non-conference is about. Having the opportunity to fix things, game after game.”
Ole Miss (2-0) scored first and never looked back, leading the game wire-to-wire. The Rebels used an 11-2 run to close the first quarter, a momentum surge that Ole Miss was able to hold onto for the remainder of the game. The Rebel defense got out to a ferocious start, holding ULM (0-1) to just 12 points on 4-of-26 shooting (15.4 percent) in the first half. This marked the eighth-best defensive half in school history and the best since 2016. The 42 total points allowed ties for the best single-game defensive effort since holding Austin Peay to 38 points on Dec. 20, 2016. On the day, the Rebels out-shot the Warhawks by an advantage of 49 percent to 32 percent.
“I thought there was a high-level of communication out there defensively,” McPhee-McCuin said. “I thought that we rebounded really well, and we got out in transition and played the pace that we would love to play.”
Leading the way for Ole Miss was junior Deja Cage, who in just her second game as a Rebel went off for a career-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting with a 4-of-6 clip from beyond the arc. Combined with her performance in the season opener vs. Mississippi Valley State, Cage is averaging 18.5 points on 68.1 percent shooting. Cage came through in the clutch on Sunday as well, hitting two buzzer-beater three-pointers in the first and third quarters.
“This is what you can expect from Deja,” McPhee-McCuin said. “That’s why we brought her here, because she can score the ball from all three levels. I promise you, you haven’t even seen her in full form because right now she’s still getting back in shape. As she continues to get her confidence and get in shape, you’ll see her do this at a more consistent rate every single day.”
Ole Miss had several other impressive individual performances. Sophomore Iyanla Kitchens had the first double-double of her career, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, both of which were career-highs. Junior Dominique Banks also had a solid all-around stat line, finishing the game with five points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Sophomore Taylor Smith chipped in eight points, five rebounds and three assists, freshman Jayla Alexander recorded a career-high eight points and junior Valerie Nesbitt added six points and four rebounds.
Ole Miss remains at home on Fri., Nov. 15, when it will host New Orleans at 3 p.m. CT as part of a doubleheader at The Pavilion, with the Rebel men taking on Western Michigan at 6 p.m. CT.