Ole Miss women’s basketball survived a late scare and rode a dynamic outing from Shakira Austin to triumph over Auburn, 62-58, to snap its SEC regular season winless streak at The Pavilion on Thursday night.
Ole Miss (7-1, 1-1 SEC) was again tested with lack of depth with only eight available on the court, but the Rebels proved resilient against a fierce Auburn (5-6, 0-3 SEC) defense as they claimed their first SEC win since Feb. 14, 2019 (vs. Vanderbilt, 65-60) and their first wire-to-wire SEC win since toppling Florida on Jan. 20, 2019 (76-66).
“Grateful for the win,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “I’ve been wanting a conference win for a long time. We’ve been building something for years to get these wins. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but I’ll tell you this, this is going to help us tremendously. We found a way to win, and that’s means a lot or our young team.”
Austin was the catalyst from the jump, making up for a slow first half vs. LSU on Jan. 4 with a quick start en route to 25 points and 10 rebounds, her 17th career double-double and second in an Ole Miss uniform. Austin was crucial for the Rebels down the stretch, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter alone as Ole Miss clung on for victory. Austin is the first Rebel to score at least 20 points in four consecutive games since Bianca Thomas did so twice during the 2009-10 season.
“If I’m gonna lose a game, I’m gonna lose it with Shakira. If I’m gonna win a game, I want to win it with Shakira,” McPhee-McCuin said. “I think that she is a special player who is growing into who she is going to be as a future pro. So being here learning how to lead, learning how to take over games is something that’s going to help her as she continues to build her draft stock and help us get to where we want to go. I know she took to heart that last game, so this was for her a way to show the team that she has them.”
Snudda Collins added nine points and a career high seven rebounds. Her three scores beyond the arc marks the fourth game this season to do so, adding to her status as the SEC leader among freshmen in three-point shooting this season. Mimi Reid (5 points) and Donnetta Johnson (7 points) each contributed six assists apiece to help pad the Rebels’ lead atop the SEC leaderboards in assists per game.
As a squad, the Rebels shot 45 percent from the floor while having a 34-28 advantage on the boards and a 26-16 edge in the paint.
Ole Miss made their presence felt on the defensive end early, forcing three turnovers within the first three minutes of the game to jump out to a quick 7-0 lead and a 12-2 edge by the first media. Austin and Reid chipped in five points each in a messy first frame where both teams combined for 14 turnovers and nine steals, which by quarter’s end saw Ole Miss with a 16-8 lead.
The Rebels would use that early cushion to maintain a manageable lead until the Tigers cut the Ole Miss lead 23-17 thanks to a three-pointer from Kiya Patton (6 points) with under four minutes to go in the first half. Snudda Collins used a pair of three-point baskets to get Ole Miss in the locker room up 32-23, the first time Ole Miss has had back-to-back SEC halftime leads since 2017.
Ole Miss shot 48 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three in the first half with 12 points coming from beyond the arc. Shakira Austin finished the half with a team-high 12 points and six rebounds. Coming off the bench, Snudda Collins added six points while Mimi Reid had five. Defensively, the Rebels forced Auburn to shoot 34 percent in the first half.
To begin the second half, Shakira Austin and Auburn’s Honesty Scott-Grayson traded blows before Ole Miss used a 6-0 run to go up 12 midway through the third quarter. The Tigers stormed back with an 8-0 run late in the third quarter before Snudda Collins broke up a near four-minute scoring drought with yet another three-pointer. That began an 8-0 run going into the fourth quarter with a 48-36 lead.
Honesty Scott-Grayson began to heat up again with a couple quick baskets to cut the lead to 48-43 early in the fourth quarter. The Rebels would keep pace for the majority of the fourth quarter until they found themselves up by only two, 60-58, with 39 seconds left to play. Valarie Nesbit’s two free throws with 14 seconds left secured an SEC victory for Ole Miss, as did a key heads up play by Austin on an inbounds with two seconds left.