The wait was over. Since the moment the Pavilion at Ole Miss broke ground, till the last seat was screwed in at 7:59, it was time to play basketball in the brand new 9,500 seat, $96.5 million Pavilion at Ole Miss.
The Rebels moved out of the Tad Smith Coliseum last month where they finished 490-210 over a stretch of 700 games that started back in 1966. Now in 2016, a new era of Ole Miss basketball has begun.
Ole Miss (11-3, 1-1 SEC ) defeated Alabama (9-4, 0-1 SEC) 74-66 in the inaugural game at the Pavilion in front of sell-out and program-record 9,500 fans.
“The energy was tremendous,” said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. “I think the energy in the crowd, in the building, allowed them to play the way we did down the stretch. I will appreciate this win after I decompress in an hour or so. It was everything.”
Ole Miss came out hot in the first half cruising to a 25-15 lead, thanks to the electric crowd in Oxford. With jitters still on the court, the Rebels cooled down only scoring three points in the final 4:19 of the first half as Alabama closed the half on a 25-7 run to take a 40-32 lead at intermission.
The Rebels stormed back in the second half taking a 53-52 lead with 9:26 remaining that put them in control of the rest of the contest.
Ole Miss forward Sebastian Saiz finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season and seventh of his career, while forward Tomasz Gielo contributed 12 points in the front court.
“I think it was his best game as an Ole Miss Rebel, “Kennedy said. “Tonight, based on the circumstances, the enormity of the moment with this historic night for our program, he really stepped up. That was a hard game. Sebas was the guy who galvanized us.”
It wasn’t just the big guys that stepped up as guard Stefan Moody consistently continued to score the ball. Moody scored 21 points, which was his ninth consecutive 20-point game. He became the first Rebel to reach that milestone since Joe Harvell in 1992. Moody made just three baskets, but he shot 13 of 16 from the free-throw line.
This was a huge win for Ole Miss who just bounced back from a blowout loss to Kentucky last week.
Despite the victory, this was a moment that Ole Miss fans will remember forever. As an Ole Miss basketball enthusiast, this was the loudest crowd I’ve ever seen it at an Ole Miss basketball game.
“This was awesome, said junior forward Sebastian Saiz. “I think we’ve got some of the best fans in the country.”
Ole Miss returns to action on Saturday, as they’ll take on Georgia at the Pavilion at Ole Miss at 7:00 p.m.
Quote Of The Game:
“I saw students running to the game, not away from the game.”- Andy Kennedy
Tomasz Gielo scored the first basket at the Pavilion as he rattled in a 3-pointer.
Ross Bjork and his wife Sonya were featured on the kiss cam.
Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze received a standing ovation for his performance leading the Rebels to a Sugar Bowl victory.
Andy Kennedy’s oldest daughter Meagan Kennedy sang the national anthem.
Former Rebel basketball player Marshall Henderson led the “Are You Ready?” chant.
Former Ole Miss Student Media Television Reporter Shepard Smith was in attendance.
For continuous coverage of Ole Miss men’s basketball, follow @browningstubbs and thedm_sports.