OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics) – After 271 days of no competition and another small delay following a cancellation last week, a revamped Ole Miss women’s basketball roster put on a show in a dominant 99-44 win over McNeese State on Monday night.
“Just extremely grateful to be out here and play,” said Ole Miss head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “Just an incredible story with McNeese being displaced by the hurricane, and them coming down and playing us. With our last game getting canceled, my girls refused to get excited for the game until shootaround. I just remember calling (McNeese State coach) Kacie (Cryer) and saying, ‘If we can’t play you, my kids are going to take me out.’ I was really glad that we passed the protocol, and everyone was safe. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to get out here and finally play a game.”
The Rebels (1-0) notched the most points in a season opener since 2005 (110, vs. Rice, Nov. 18, 2005) on the backs of an all-around impressive team effort. The 99 points scored also marks the most scored in the Coach Yo era, and was helped greatly by a 52-18 percent split in field goal percentage – the lowest allowed by a Rebel squad since 2016.
The story of the game, though, was the bevy of new faces leading an energized charge for a Rebel squad that featured seven newcomers on the floor Monday. Of the 99 total points scored Monday night, 88 came from newcomers. All five Rebels in double figures were not part of the 2019-20 roster, and two of them – Snudda Collins and Caitlin McGee – came off the bench.
Collins stole the show, leading all scorers with 23 points on a 5-of-8 clip from beyond the arc – the most by a Rebel freshman in available records dating back to the 1998-99 season.
“We knew she could do that, and she’s just getting started,” McPhee-McCuin said. “So much of her game is going to be developed while she’s here, and I think she’s going to make history here at Ole Miss.”
Other Rebels in double digits included Donnetta Johnson (10 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals), Caitlin McGee (13 points, six rebounds), five-star signee Madison Scott (15 points, three rebounds, two steals, one block, one assist) and highly-touted transfer Shakira Austin, who notched 12 points, six boards two steals and four demonstrative blocks in her Rebel debut.
“Kira is the type of player that will rise to the occasion,” McPhee-McCuin said. “As play gets better, she will get better.”
Junior Mimi Reid, the elder statesman of the roster with 54 career starts, had an excellent start to her season as the maestro of the offense, notching six points and nine assists. In each of her first two seasons at Ole Miss, Reid has finished the year ranked top-10 in the SEC in assists.
The look of the court and the feel of the game were drastically different Monday night due to COVID-19 protocols put in place, but adjustment will be the name of the game for teams across the nation in 2020-21.
“We’re used to it,” McPhee-McCuin said. “The goal is for our players to be safe and for us to play basketball. I don’t care if I have to wear a hazmat suit, that’s what I’ll do to be able to do something that I love.”
Ole Miss doesn’t have much time to revel, though, as it will welcome the Kansas Jayhawks to Oxford for the first time ever as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT inside The Pavilion and on SEC Network.