Tyia Singleton blocked a shot three feet from the basket at the buzzer, and Ole Miss (22-7, 11-5 in SEC play) secured a 57-55 win over Alabama (20-9, 9-7) in a winner-takes-four-seed-and-double-bye contest.
The win was in Tuscaloosa, so the crowd fell silent, but Rebel fans around the country, at least the two of us watching on my phone (desperately in need of charging), were roaring.
The Rebels are NCAA tournament locks at this point and just playing for seeding. The latest bracketology had them as a seven seed, but that was before they knocked off a tournament team on the road in Tuscaloosa. This win puts them in a position to get as high as a five seed (with a stellar SEC tournament run). If they can do that, they’re equipped to make a deep run.
All that is incredible, but for a moment, let’s just consider the season it has been so far.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this
With Ole Miss replacing Shakira Austin (a WNBA lottery pick), Lashonda Monk, Mimi Reid, Donetta Johnson, Iyanla Kitchens, Tiya Douglas, Caitlin McGee, Andeija Puckett, etc., expectations weren’t very high. Last season’s team was 23-9 (10-6), but the team was decimated by graduations, transfers, and Shakira Austin’s decision to go pro early (which was a great call, as Austin finished second in the WNBA’s rookie of the year voting). There were some pieces left, but a lot of work would need to be done to make this squad competitive at a high level.
Yo went to work in the offseason, getting transfers from Purdue, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Rutgers, and Pitt. None of them were stars at their previous stops, but each had good traits Yo saw she could put to good use.
Fast forward, and three of them (Marquesha Davis, Myah Taylor, and Tyia Singleton) are starters while Rita Igbokwe leads the team in blocks coming off the bench. Brooke Moore, the Purdue transfer who averaged double digit points there, suffered a season-ending injury before the season even began. Imagine this team with another three point shooter (36.5% from behind the arc).
These transfers have had a seismic impact, but the foundational pieces from last season are what makes it special.
Angel Baker and Madison Scott have carried the team
Baker leads the Rebels in points (15.2) and is the player the team looks for in crunch time. She has made a ton of big shots this year and will likely continue to be leaned on as a scorer in both tournaments.
Madison Scott is generally one of those glue players who does a ton of things well, including many that aren’t included in a stat sheet. She is second in points (11.6), leads the team in rebounding (8.4), and ranks in the top three in steals, assists, and blocks. On top of that, she’s regularly tasked with matching up against the opposing team’s best player defensively and shines there. This team has held every team other than Auburn below its scoring average this season, and Scott if a huge part of that.
It’s tough to imagine what this team would be without these two.
So, what about next year?
In general, I hate thinking about next season while there’s very meaningful basketball left to play, but I’ll go ahead and give a glimpse here. The team should be pretty good, though they’ll need to find some scoring in the transfer portal.
I would imagine the starting unit will look something like this:
PG: A transfer
SG: Marquesha Davis
SF: Snudda Collins
PF: Madison Scott
C: Rita Igbokwe
That team is fine but needs some help in lots of areas coming off the bench. Yo could have another good year next season, but she’s going to have a lot of work to do in rebuilding the roster.