COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (Ole Miss Athletics) – Tulane led for all but 1:10 of action heading into the final quarter, but the Ole Miss women’s basketball team would not be denied, standing behind a ferocious defense and timely runs toward a 72-61 victory over the Green Wave on Saturday night. With the win, Ole Miss now advances to the third round of the WNIT for the first time since 2015, where a showdown with Colorado (12-10) awaits the Rebels on Monday night at 7 p.m. CT.
Ole Miss (13-11) and Tulane (18-9) both packed their defenses in their suitcase Saturday night, forcing a combined 42 turnovers on a total of 23 steals. It was the Rebels who took control last, though, battling back from what was at one point an eight-point deficit for the win. In total, there were six lead changes and the score was tied nine times, but Ole Miss flourished in the fourth quarter, winning the frame 20-11.
Key in that final quarter was the charity stripe, as the Rebels beat Tulane at their own game with free tries. Entering the game, Tulane ranked in the top-35 nationally in both free throws attempts and made, but it was Ole Miss who ended up with a monstrous 25-of-30 clip – with a 10-of-11 mark in the fourth quarter alone.
“Great effort, great competitive game tonight. (Tulane is) a great team who is used to winning,” said acting head coach Shay Robinson. “We knew it was going to be a battle in the trenches. We finally started getting back to what we do and who we are in the second half. Dictating on defense, controlling the glass, and punching it inside where we had our advantage. And then I thought we did a better job of taking care of the basketball versus the press, being more poised and controlled and getting the shot we want as a team. We were kind of forcing it and being a little selfish in the first half, not playing controlled, settled basketball. We just got back to our identity and our intensity in the second half. I’m so proud of the girls, they came together as a team and pulled out a tough game.”
The press caused early fits for Ole Miss, who committed 12 of its 22 total turnovers in the first half. Tulane, which ended the regular season with a NET of 53, was not intimidated by the size and athleticism posed by Ole Miss, jumping out to a five-point lead at the end of the first and holding onto a two-point edge by halftime. The Green Wave received two splendid performances from Jerkaila Jordan (21 points) and Arsula Clark (18 points), but the late Rebel charge was paired with Tulane’s first shooting slump of the night (23.5 percent in the fourth) as well as foul trouble, which the Rebels took advantage of with glee.
Shakira Austin was held relatively quiet in the first quarter and was limited in the fourth due to foul trouble, but in between she was transcendent. Austin ended with her second double-double in as many games in the WNIT at 24 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks, two steals, one assist and a huge 14-of-17 line from the charity stripe, putting her tournament average at 23.5 points and 12.5 rebounds.
Donnetta Johnson was the consistent motor for the Rebels all night, though, ending with 15 points and five rebounds in a team-high 32 minutes played. Madison Scott chipped in nine huge points alongside four boards and three blocks, but Mimi Reid shined brightest for Ole Miss defensively, tying a career-high four steals to go along with her eight points and five assists. On two different occasions, Reid picked the pocket of a Green Wave ball carrier and took it back to the house for two.
Ole Miss now stares down a date with Colorado (12-10) in the Memphis Regional final Monday night for a chance to advance to the WNIT’s version of the Final Four. A win would mark the furthest trip in the WNIT in program history, as tonight’s win vs. Tulane ties the third-round appearances by both the 2006 and 2015 squads. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CT and the game will air live on the online subscription streaming service, FloHoops.