DAYTON, Ohio - The NCAA Sweet 16 brings its own pressure to those still in the hunt for a championship.

The Ole Miss women better bring their pressure to the Sweet 16.

The numbers the Rebels amassed against the defending national champion in eliminating Maryland 89-78 in the second round Tuesday were truly amazing, which begs a certain question.

Can they do it again? Can the Rebels achieve such a high level of productivity again and hold it for four more games?

It's one thing to force 40 turnovers against Alabama, something Ole Miss did twice this season.

It's another thing altogether to make a championship team with most of its starters back - a team that had drilled you by 31 points earlier - cough up the ball 29 times and convert those turnovers into 42 points.

The Rebels have the guards to play that style this year, and the Maryland game wasn't the only one that made you sit back and say "wow."

But like any style of offense, consistency is a problem. There are ways to guard against the speed and skill of Armintie Price, Ashley Awkward and Alliesha Easley.

It isn't easy, but it's doable. That's why Ole Miss was 4-5 in its last nine SEC games after a 5-0 start.

Peak performance is a moving target for all athletes.

The Rebels are playing well right now. They're on top of their game, much like they were when they knocked off Vanderbilt and LSU back-to-back in early January. It will take that type of effort every time on the floor to conquer and advance.

One advantage the Rebels no longer have is the element of surprise.

There were reasons to overlook them in postseason - the 4-5 SEC finish, the No. 7 seed, the lack of recent NCAA tourney success and, for Maryland, the fact that it had already slapped the Rebels around.

The athletes from Mississippi have gotten a lot of ink and air time in the last week. Oklahoma won't be so easily fooled, nor will the Sooners let their guard down.

Ole Miss will have to crank up the pressure and hit the free throws - The Rebels were 24-for-27 from the line against Maryland - to reach an Elite Eight showdown with the Tennessee-Marist winner. We can all guess who that will be.

Oklahoma is 28-4 but the bigger, methodical, halfcourt Sooners have occasionally had trouble with running, pressing teams. Two of their four loss are to Texas A&M, which plays a style similar to Ole Miss.

It's the NCAA tournament, and the pressure is on.

For Ole Miss it had better be.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@djournal.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal.

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