Size has never been Ole Miss' biggest strength this season, and it certainly will be put to the test Friday.
After being outscored 56-14 in the paint in a 64-63 defeat of South Carolina on Thursday, the Rebels now meet up with top seed and No. 4-ranked Tennessee, which starts five players 6-foot or taller and will be bigger than Ole Miss at every position when the game tips off at noon.
Ole Miss was able to hang with the Lady Vols in both games during the regular season, though, before losing each time. The Rebels did so in large part by making 3-pointers and limiting scoring opportunities for All-SEC center Kelley Cain, who scored seven points in both games.
The height disadvantage is something the Rebels have grown accustomed to dealing with this season, and coach Renee Ladner said they're confident they can do so again.
"We've done that all year," Ladner said of her team giving up 56 points in the paint against South Carolina. "So what we do is we try to counter that with perimeter play. It's the norm. Rebounding has been a source all year, so we've decided the best thing we can do is rebound by committee. If we can do that, we should be in good shape."
All-SEC vs. No-Names
When Auburn coach Nell Fortner looks at Kentucky, Friday's opponent after a 74-61 win over Florida on Thursday, she sees a star-studded lineup.
"We know Kentucky is a really good team," Fortner said. "They have Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year. They're tremendously talented, but we feel good about how we're playing, and we'll get out there and see how we can do."
The aforementioned SEC honorees are Victoria Dunlap, A'dia Mathies and Matthew Mitchell, respectively. The trio has given the Wildcats three of the conference's biggest individual awards, leaving little mystery as to how they earned the No. 2 seed in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Auburn doesn't have a single first-team All-SEC player and finished the regular season one game below .500.
But the Tigers can play confidently, with Sunday's 65-53 win over Kentucky still fresh on their minds, and the Wildcats enter the game on the back of their first consecutive losses of the season, both by double digits.
Valuable experience for Vandy
Vanderbilt might have barely avoided a significant upset Thursday when the No. 5-seed Commodores edged 12th-seeded Arkansas 65-64 in overtime, but Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb didn't seem concerned headed into her matchup with No. 4-seed LSU coming up Friday.
She said having a game already behind them will help her players as they shoot for an upset of their own.
"Going in, what I like is we've already played on this court," Balcomb said. "This is our home court now. We just won our first game. That's the way I look at it. We've already gotten our feet wet on a neutral court."
- Former Collins Hill High star Shantell Black made the game-winning shot and free throw with 11.3 seconds left to help lift Ole Miss to a 64-63 win over South Carolina.
- Charenee Stephens, who played for Southwest DeKalb, finished with a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double off the bench in a losing effort for the Gamecocks.
- Former Sandy Creek/St. Pius guard Morgan Toles started and scored 11 points with seven assists to help lead Auburn to a 74-61 win over Florida.
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