December 23, 2020 

Around the SEC: Ole Miss’ defensive dominance by the numbers

Texas A&M sits atop the conference heading into the final week of 2020

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The SEC has four unbeaten teams heading into the holiday week. With a 57-53 win against the Rice Owls Sunday afternoon, Texas A&M sits atop the SEC at 8-0; followed by Alabama and Georgia at 7-0 and Ole Miss at 6-0. 

Most of the SEC is on break this holiday week before starting up conference play next week.

Read more from around the SEC:

Ole Miss – Defense, Defense, Defense

Wednesday’s Ole Miss women’s basketball game vs. Jacksonville State has been canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests among the Ole Miss program.

Ole Miss is now scheduled to open its SEC season next Thursday, Dec. 31, at South Carolina. Can the Gamecocks hand the Rebels their first loss of the season?

Speaking of Ole Miss, the Rebels have been all about the D this season. Playing stellar defense, they’ve been near-impossible to score on through six games in 2020-21. They own the NCAA’s second-best shooting defense (28.1 percent) and fourth-best scoring defense (48.3 PPG) — both of which lead the SEC.

Ole Miss is also forcing the NCAA’s sixth-most turnovers per game (24.0) helped by the nation’s 12th most steals (13.2), yielding the NCAA’s 10th-best turnover margin in 2020-21 at +9.2 per game.

That defensive hustle has produced results, holding the first four Rebel opponents to fewer than 60 points for the first time in program history, and notching the fifth-fewest points in program history vs. George Mason (34). The 290 total points allowed by Ole Miss stands as the fewest through six games in program history.

You know what they say — defense wins championships! 

A&M At the Top

Following a 57-53 victory Sunday over Rice, the Aggies climbs to 8-0 on the season, its best starting record since the 2014-15 campaign. The win also extended the Aggies’ non-conference win streak to 13 consecutive games.

A&M has maintained a 10-point lead or higher in all eight matchups this season.

Senior guard Aaliyah Wilson weighed in on what being undefeated meant.

“We believe in us, especially given what we’ve faced up to this point,” Wilson said. “I can say we’ve got eight or nine new players facing the pandemic. Anything could happen, the season could have ended, but we have been able to figure things out. We find a way to keep winning, find a way to keep getting better each day. So, I think that speaks to how we are as a team and as a program. That’s how we’ve been able to build and finish strong before the break. So, it feels good to go into the break with an 8-0 record.”

Thompson Reaches Milestone

Auburn senior Unique Thompson had 20 points, 23 rebounds and hit a major milestone with her 1,000th career rebound in a loss Sunday to Belmont.

Thompson became the fifth player at Auburn to surpass the 1,000-rebound mark for her career with her 13th board of the day. With 23 rebounds in the contest, Thompson now sits fourth in career rebounds with 1,010, passing Vickie Orr (1,006).

Auburn (5-3), playing its third game in five days, turned the ball over a season-high 27 times, leading to 31 points for Belmont (4-2). 

In a bright spot, redshirt sophomore Honesty Scott-Grayson had her third straight strong performance with a career-high 18 points along with four rebounds, four assists and a team-leading three steals.

Auburn will now have a 10-day break before opening SEC play on New Year’s Eve at LSU. Game time is set for 7 p.m. ET at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

Four in a Row

The Vanderbilt Commodores have rattled off four straight wins after defeating Gardner-Webb on Sunday afternoon, 97-58. 

The Commodores (4-1) never trailed in the game. It also marked the first time Vanderbilt broke the 90-point barrier in back-to-back games since the 2009-10 season.

Pushing for Six

The University of Florida women’s basketball team (7-1) completed its non-conference slate at home Monday against North Florida, winning 89-64.

The Gators, off to their best start in four seasons, have been led by a high-powered offense, a much-improved defense and the dynamic playmaking of its backcourt to begin the season.

The Gators entered Monday scoring 79.3 points per game and limiting opponents to just 59.1 points on average. Both marks rank Florida near the top of the SEC. Through seven games a season ago, UF averaged 67.9 points per game. Four times, the Gators have scored over 80 points a game after doing so four times all of last year.

The Gator have also defended the three-point shot this season. Opponents are shooting just .181 from three-point range against UF this season. That’s one of the best marks in not only the Southeastern Conference, but all of Division I.

Age is Just a Number

The young guns are getting it done in South Carolina.

Gamecock sophomore Zia Cooke scored a game-high 23 points in Thursday’s 103-41 win over Temple and became the eighth-fastest Gamecock to score 500 points in her career. 

In that same game, freshman Eniya Russell cracked double figures for the second time this season, pouring in 11 points off the bench to go with her three rebounds and two steals.

And sophomore Laeticia Amihere drew her first start of the season, putting up 11 points and going 5-of-5 from the free-throw line.

Roooollllllll Tide

The Alabama Crimson Tide are 7-0 for the first time since 2016. They are helped by junior forward Jasmine Walker who has three-straight double-doubles and four in the last five games. Walker also scored her 1,000th career point in last week’s 86-46 victory over Nicholls State. 

Teammate redshirt senior guard Jordan Lewis moved up to No. 15 on Alabama’s career points list. She now has 1,218 and is 22 away from 14th place.

New coach, same winning ways

Kentucky is 7-1 on the year after defeating Wofford, 98-37, in its final non-conference game of the season. Kyra Elzy is now 7-1 as head coach of Kentucky, including 6-0 at home. Kentucky is ranked No. 9 in the latest AP Top 25 and USA Today/Coaches Top 25. This is Kentucky’s highest ranking since 2015-16.

Elzy also knows how to improvise for the ugly sweater game.

“As far as the ugly sweater, I have to admit that last night on the way home I forgot today was our ugly sweater game, so I’m riding down Richmond Road and Coach Niya Butts said, uh do you have your ugly sweater, and I had to make a U-turn to Walmart, so this is what I came up with,” Elzy told reporters following the win over Wofford.

The Wildcats are 19-7 all-time as the No. 9 team in the nation. They begin Southeastern Conference play after a break for the holidays on New Year’s Eve at 8:30 p.m. ET, playing host to No. 13 Arkansas.

Written by Dorothy J. Gentry

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