NASHVILLE – With its highest seed in the SEC Tournament since 1993 at No. 4, Ole Miss withstood a challenge from No. 5 Florida Friday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena to come away with a 70-60 win.
The Rebels advance to its first SEC Tournament semifinal since that 1993 season.
Carried by a dominant outing from Shakira Austin Ole Miss (23-7, 10-6 SEC) held off a Florida (21-10, 10-6 SEC) team that found footing from three to push the Rebels to the end.
Austin recorded her 10th double-double of the season with a season-high 27 points and 13 points. Her six blocks are the most by any Rebel in an SEC Tournament game, adding to a program best 11 as a team in the tournament. The 11 are also the most in a single game by Ole Miss this year.
Angel Baker, the SEC’s Sixth Woman of the Year, proved why she earned that award with 15 points off the bench to provide a spark to Ole Miss.
Madison Scott assisted the Rebels to keep the Gators off the glass with nine rebounds as well as eight points.
Three straight buckets from Austin set the Rebels in motion from the opening tip, as she started on fire with 12 points through the first 10 minutes.
As Ole Miss restricted Florida from reaching the bucket in the interior, the Gators began to catch fire from deep with three triples in the first.
The Rebels distanced themselves from the Gators with 6-0 run to start the second quarter, as Ole Miss remained hot from the floor. At the opposite end, the Rebels continued to shut down Florida from the inside as UF went over three and a half minutes without a field goal.
With assistance from Baker, Ole Miss built a seven-point cushion over the Gators, heading into the break, up 32-25. Florida utilized the three-point line to push the Rebels, cutting the Ole Miss lead to four midway through the third.
The Gators remained a thorn in the Ole Miss side, until the Rebels hit their first two threes of the game to extend its lead with a 48-41 lead through three.
Ole Miss worked to close the door on the Gators with five straight points to go up by nine at 54-46 with seven minutes remaining in the game.
Once again, UF refused to go away quietly cutting within four, until foul trouble from the Gators allowed Ole Miss to use the charity stripe to its advantage. An 8-2 Rebel run sealed the victory in their favor, 70-60.
For the ninth time in program history, Ole Miss advances to the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament.
The No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks await the Rebles tomorrow at 4 p.m. on ESPNU with a championship game berth on the line.