Tonight at 7 CT, the Lady Rebs take on the... Lady Bears?
Ole Miss is receiving top 25 votes after last year’s finish as the runners up for the WNIT crown. Our new writer, JLew23, will be rolling a more holistic season preview out soon, but this first game is worth talking about in and of itself.
Last year, Belmont finished 21-6 (14-3) and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament after upsetting Gonzaga in the first round. The Bears return their top seven players in minutes played last season, so this is going to be a very, very difficult test for the young Lady Rebels.
Sophomore guard Destinee Wells was a force last year, ultimately being named the OVC freshman of the year. She averaged 18 points per game and 6 assists. Wells is a major force and was selected as the preseason OVC player of the year. Watch for East Carolina transfer Lashonda Monk to regularly be asked to lock down Wells. Monk was the AAC defensive player of the year at ECU and was brought in to be a reliable defender who can consistently irritate the types of high scoring guards that litter the SEC. She has a huge test right out of the gates.
But Belmont isn’t only Wells. Senior forward Conley Chinn is an All-OVC performer who averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds per game last year. The Jackson Academy product is coming to play in her home state and is a force who must be dealt with. Luckily, Ole Miss sports 6’5” preseason all-SEC performer Shakira Austin down low. Austin’s presence defensively is immense, and this is an important game for her to keep out of foul trouble and make it tough for Belmont to score.
The Bears have a few other strong players who were top 100 players out of high school, so the Rebels can’t take anyone lightly.
There are a ton of storylines JLew will dive into during his season preview, but tonight should start to clear things up on some of them. Questions I’m interested in answering:
- Is SEC Freshman of the Year Madison Scott somehow noticeably better, as Coach Yo has said a few times during the offseason? If so, wow.
- Will Shakira Austin really be spending some time at the 4 now that both previously injured centers (Andeija Puckett and Aleah Sorrentino) are back in the lineup? Austin could be a terror for any power forwards.
- How does the hierarchy shake out? Newcomers Angel Baker and Monk were all-conference players who transferred into a team with returning starters at their positions. More than just playing time, who does the team seem driven by? Are they integrated well early, or should we expect some growing pains?
- Which role players from last season take a step to make a bigger impact during this pivotal season?
While one game isn’t going to fully answer any of these questions, it will be nice to finally see a promising team begin to come together tonight.
You can catch the game on SEC Network+.