NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With their NCAA Tournament hopes on the line, Ole Miss (20-12) failed to deliver the victory in Bridgestone Arena as South Carolina senior guard Tyrone Johnson made three free throws with 0.7 seconds to SECURE the Gamecocks (17-15) the 60-58 victory over Ole Miss in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
“I’m still in a little bit of shock based on the ending,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “Two teams played really hard, as you expect at this time of the season, understanding that if you lose, you go home.”
A few seconds before, it seemed as if Ole Miss was going to come out on top as senior point guard Jarvis Summers sank a four-point play from the left corner in front of the Ole Miss bench to put the Rebels up 58-57 with 3.3 seconds remaining. In response, Johnson managed to dribble past halfcourt and launched a three-pointer that was contested by Ole Miss senior guard LaDarius White, who was called for the foul.
White was asked after the game if he thought he had fouled Tyrone Johnson, and his answer was short.
“Not at all,” White said.
Despite the questionable foul, White showed senior leadership scoring 17 points, including 4 three-pointers. However, the backcourt of Jarvis Summers and junior Stefan Moody combined to shoot an inefficient 6-of-25 and committed nine turnovers. Outside of White, Summers was the only Rebel to score in double-figures as he finished with 15.
“We struggled all night offensively,” Kennedy said. “If you look at our 12 losses, there is a common theme, and that’s our inability to find any rhythm offensively. We stayed in the game because defensively we were pretty good and we battled in some effort areas to give ourselves a chance down the stretch.”
The game tipped off SLOW for the 6th seeded Rebels as they started 4-of-17 from the field. On the other hand, the 11th seeded Gamecocks controlled most of the contest, leading for 35 minutes and 55 seconds of the game. After a long rally, Ole Miss regained the lead 48-47 with 5:25 left in the game, which was their first lead since 2-0 early in the first half.
As soon as Ole Miss gained the lead, they could not pull away as the Gamecocks CONTINUED to fight back to give them their second victory of the Southeastern Conference tournament. South Carolina will take on No. 3 seed Georgia tonight in the quarterfinals.
As far as their NCAA Tournament hopes, it does not look promising for the Rebels after losing four out of their last five games to close out the season.
“We have now taken the destiny out of our own hands,” Kennedy said. “Now we just have to wait and see what the other teams that are in the equation have done.”
Fortunately for Ole Miss, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looks at the whole season’s body of work that includes road WINS over Oregon and Arkansas, and a neutral court win over Cincinnati. With an RPI of 55 and 3 wins against the RPI top 50, that may just be enough to sneak Ole Miss in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin was asked if he thought the Rebels were tourney-bound, and his reply was optimistic.
“Oh, please,” Martin said. “Our league is real, real good. Ole Miss better be in that tournament, and not only in it, but better be in it with a good seed.”
We will find out on Selection Sunday if the Rebels did enough to make the big dance.
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