Ole Miss worn down by taller, No. 7 Gamecocks

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm •  Published: January 30, 2014
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Mississippi first-year coach Matt Insell watched his smaller, less physical players get outmuscled against No. 7 South Carolina and couldn't stop thinking about the time that would no longer be the case.

Insell spent time visiting with South Carolina coach Dawn Staley before the Gamecocks' dominating, 99-70 victory over the Rebels on Thursday night, picking her brain about building a winner in the Southeastern Conference.

"I asked Dawn a lot of advice as she did the same thing here at South Carolina," said Insell, who spent the past five seasons as a Kentucky assistant. "Three years, four years from now, we're going to be at the same stage as she is (now). And we're looking forward to that."

Right now, though, the Rebels (10-12, 1-7 SEC) are struggling to matchup against the top tier teams in the SEC. That happened again as Ole Miss lost to a fourth ranked SEC opponent this season.

This time, South Carolina's strength and size — the Gamecocks' three forwards in Alaina Coates, Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch combined for 49 points and 24 rebounds — wore down Mississippi, which was outscored 19-1 in the final seven minutes of the first half to trail 44-25.

"We've got to learn from this and get better," Insell said.

A bright spot for the Rebels again was point guard Valencia McFarland, who finished with 24 points. It was the fourth time in the past five she's posted 20 or more. "I feel like I've got the best point guard in the SEC," Insell said.

But McFarland's play wasn't enough to hold off South Carolina (19-2, 7-1).

The 6-foot-4 Coates tied her career high with 24 points and added 12 rebounds for her seventh double-double this season. Ibiam had 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Welch went for 11 points and four rebounds.

"I'm not going to say we're unstoppable, but I feel like having us in the paint, it's hard to stop us," Coates said. "We're going to continue to do what we do."

That's been plenty to stay atop the SEC, tied with No. 17 Texas A&M at 7-1. Ibiam says the forwards take pride in dominating down low.