The only suspense for fans at the women's basketball game on Sunday afternoon was whether the team would surpass the critical Free Tacos threshold of 75 points.
There may be no easy games in the SEC this year, as Coach Melanie Balcomb says, but the handwriting for this game was on the wall early in the game.
The Dores held a 17-7 lead at the 13:36 mark in the first half, a lead which continued to grow to a 38-17 advantage at halftime. Midway through the second half, the lead ballooned to 33 points. The Dores broke the taco barrier on a basket by Kendall Shaw with 2:20 left in the game and went on to win the game with a healthy 26-point margin.
Although the game might not have provided much suspense for fans, Coach Balcomb was able to use the game for her team's continuing development.
"It was great because they need each other, and I think we’re really trying to come together as a team, and get deeper, stay fresher," she said after the game. "We’re learning that from the games that we’re losing. Close games to the top teams in the conference are teaching us a lot, and one of those things is that our starters need to play less minutes.
"So tonight was really nice because we stuck with our game plan. We were us, it was a complete game, and everybody that came off the bench came in and did their job and their role, and I couldn’t really ask for more than that."
Balcomb used the same starting lineup that she used in the hard-fought loss at Texas A&M on Thursday night: Jasmine Lister at the point, Christina Foggie and Elan Brown on the wings, and Heather Bowe and Tiffany Clarke in the post. But she subbed early and often. Freshman post Kendall Shaw subbed for Clarke after the first media timeout. Soon afterward freshman point guard Jasmine Jenkins (aka "JJ") subbed for Foggie, allowing Lister to slide over to the wing.
After the game, Coach Balcomb talked about both of those freshman. Jenkins played 17 minutes and finished the game with four assists with only one turnover, five rebounds, and a steal.
"She’s come a long way; I think she’s grown a lot during the season," said Balcomb. "As a freshman, everybody grows at a different pace, and the point guard position is the toughest position to learn on the floor."
She said that in her system there's a lot of pressure on the point guard, who has the ball in her hand "90% of the time" and who must lead other people, including upperclassmen, a challenging task for a freshman.
"You have to handle it under a lot of pressure and do a lot of things and understand everything we’re doing," Balcomb said. "She wasn’t ready right away, but her growth and her process has gotten really good since we’ve been in the SEC, and I think she’s ready to help us, and you saw that tonight.
Shaw played a total of 13 minutes, scoring six points with three rebounds and a steal. When she entered the game in the first half, she picked up three quick fouls, but found a rhythm in the second half, scoring three field goals, one following an offensive rebound and two others assisted by Rayte'a Long, another freshman post.
"I felt like she’s been growing in practice as well, kind of like JJ has, and yet she wasn’t a great matchup for some of the teams and we weren’t ready to get her in there until we played Kelsey Bone and A&M," said Balcomb. "And then she responded well. I liked what she did, it carried over, and whether she was going to match up with this team or not, I thought that she could help us and was ready to help, just like I think JJ was ready to help us, and you saw that again tonight."
"Tiffany sprained her ankle and did not practice yesterday, and I think that helped us because then Kendall got the most shots in the post yesterday," Balcomb said. "Kendall needs shots in the paint when she’s in, and she got that yesterday in practice, and you saw that carry over to the game."
This week the Dores have their second bye week of the SEC season and won't play again until next Sunday afternoon when the Kentucky Wildcats, currently tied at the top of the league standings with Tennessee, visit for the annual Pink Out game. Game time is 3 p.m., and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
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The game marked the annual women's basketball alumni celebration with special emphasis on the 20-year anniversary of the 1993 Final Four team. Before the game, Charlie Mattos interviewed Mara Cunningham Perkins, the MVP of the 1993 SEC Tournament.
Once again, Ole Miss used their unconventional tip-off strategy, putting 5-4 Valencia McFarland in the circle for the opening tip-off against Tiffany Clarke.
Women's basketball alumni
Christina Foggie dishes to Elan Brown
Rayte'a Long, Morgan Batey, Kady Schrann, Jasmine Jenkins, Kristen Gaffney