Ole Miss women's basketball looking to make first return trip to the Sweet 16 since 2007

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - First Round - California
Ole Miss is a win over No. 1 Seed Stanford away from getting back to the Sweet 16. (Photo by John Todd/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Ole Miss women’s basketball team looked like a team on Friday that was dead set on not having a repeat of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Mission accomplished as the No. 8 Seed Rebels dominated No. 9 Seed Gonzaga in a 71-48 victory.

Securing a win in the First Round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament for the first time in 16 years Ole Miss (24-8) is a win away from reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in that same span. To do so they will have to get past No. 1 Seed Stanford (29-5) on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. CT.

The past two seasons have been about making postseason accomplishments normal again within the Ole Miss women’s program. Friday’s win was the next step in solidifying that getting to the NCAA Tournament is not the goal anymore, but seeing how long the Rebels can stay in it once they do.

Sunday’s game against the Cardinals is the next test in a long line of many that Ole Miss has to show it is ready for the big stage. A test that is the latest obstacle McCuin and the Rebels have failed to clear up to now.

“We’ve had a lot of success and we don’t talk about it,” McCuin said after Friday’s game. “We’re going to focus on the present. I do think us playing in the Southeastern Conference has prepared us to play anybody in the country. …We took the No. 1 team in the country, today, to overtime. As far as we’re concerned this is just another incredible opportunity versus another incredible game. The same type of thought we had versus Gonzaga.”

If Ole Miss is going to keep its dancing shoes on and advance to Seattle for the second weekend of the tournament they will have to continue its record-setting performance from Friday. The Rebels held the Bulldogs to 48 points which is a new program-best in a NCAA Tournament game.

Ole Miss has made the NCAA Tournament 19 times and advanced past the first weekend in over half of them.

The Rebels have 10 Sweet 16 appearances and from there advanced to the Elite 8 five times. The most recent run to the Elite 8 occurred in 2007 when Ole Miss lost to Tennessee.

Standing in Ole Miss’ way is Stanford. Sunday will be only the second time in history the two teams have played one another. The first meeting too place during the 1990 NCAA Tournament with the Cardinals beating the Rebels, 78-65, to advance to the Elite 8. Stanford went on to win the National Championship that season.

“We don’t want to have an identity crisis right now,” McCuin said. “We want to be who we are and that’s defense and our defense is our engine to our offense. That is what we intend to do on Sunday. We intend to guard and if we can do that we’ll feel like we’ll have success.”

Ole Miss and Stanford will air on ESPN.