yolett mcphee-mccuinn sec 19

Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee- McCuin only had three players returning who played minutes for the Rebels last year.

Ole Miss women’s basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin leads her team onto the court today at Baton Rouge – and does so with the complete confidence of the administration.

Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter gave his second-year coach a strong endorsement on Friday after a brutal week that included two losses by an average margin of 50 points and the dismissal of a player, the Rebels’ second-leading scorer.

Ole Miss (7-9, 0-3 SEC) is on the road today for a 2 p.m. tip at LSU (12-3, 2-1 SEC).

The Rebels opened SEC play with a 58-51 home loss to Georgia.

They followed that with a 79-35 loss at No. 10 Texas A&M on Monday and an 84-28 home loss to No. 23 Tennessee on Thursday.

In between McPhee-McCuin dismissed backup point guard Valerie Nesbitt, who was averaging 11.3 points a game.

Carter said he and Lynette Johnson, the senior women’s administrator, have reassured McPhee-McCuin.

“She has our full support. She knows that,” said Carter, adding that he supported McPhee-McCuin’s decision to remove Nesbitt.

“When we had to make the change with the player earlier this week I commended her for that. We want to build the culture the right way, we want to do things the right way. We let her know she has time to do that. This is a long game for us.”

McPhee-McCuin’s challenge of rebuilding an already struggling program became more difficult with an unusual amount of attrition after the firing of former coach Matt Insell, Carter said.

Eight players left the team, and a returning player missed McPhee-McCuin’s first season for personal reasons.

She plugged some gaps with graduate transfers who contributed but gave her a high turnover rate again for this season.

Part of the draw to McPhee-McCuin in the hiring process was her success as a recruiter at previous stops.

Ole Miss announced the nation’s No. 9 signing class – No. 1 in the SEC – on the Nov. 13 early date. The class, which includes two five-star recruits, later settled to No. 13 in those ESPN rankings but currently remains the top class in the conference.

“We’ve seen progress in a lot of areas. We’ve built a foundation, but there’s still some work to do,” Carter said. “With every coach as they get to a new year in their tenure you hope to see that the program is building. We’ll look at it all wholistically, but it’s going to take some time.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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