How many times have basketball fans said to themselves, “If only my team could hit free throws, we would have won that game!” Fans of the Ole Miss men’s basketball team don’t have to ponder the “what-ifs” this season, as the Rebels lead the nation in free-throw percentage.
At no point was the importance of that statistic more magnified than when senior guard Jarvis Summers stepped to the line Saturday night and hit two free throws with 3.5 seconds left. That gave Ole Miss (12-7, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) a 72-71 lead—and ultimately a victory–over Florida (10-9, 3-3 SEC).
Following Summers’ free throws, the Gators took the ball down the court but with so little time remaining were not able to score. Ole Miss came away with the 72-71 win at the Tad Smith Coliseum in front of 8,812 excited fans.
As a team, Ole Miss went 16-of-19 from the free throw line, an 84.2 completion rate, and Summers, the player of the game, finished with a total of 16 points.
After the game, head coach Andy Kennedy commented on Summers. “He’s an all-league player. He’s been there before. We need him to carry us in those situations.”
Ole Miss had tremendous production from its bench, as three players came in and scored in double figures: senior guard LaDarius White had 13 points; senior guard Terence Smith finished with 11, and sophomore forward Dwight Coleby added 10. The Rebel bench out-produced the Florida bench 40-19.
Kennedy acknowledged having to go farther into his bench than he had planned. “We have quality depth,” he said. “I was playing a lot of guys early, but it’s hard to get in any kind of rhythm when you’re playing 10 or 11 guys, so we have shortened it to nine guys. Today, we had to go a little bit deeper, and those guys responded, which is not easy to do,” he added.
The Gators began the game on an 8-0 run, but the Rebels fought back and took their first lead—at 21-20–with 7:53 remaining in the half. Florida responded and took a 36-30 lead into the half.
In the second half, Ole Miss went on a 13-0 run to go up 53-46 with 11:31 left in the game. Following a Gator 3-pointer by Michael Frazier, Florida took a 67-65 lead going into the final 3:30.
Summers again responded for the Rebels and hit a long-range two-pointer to give Ole Miss a 70-69 lead. However, following an Ole Miss foul, Frazier hit both his free throws to give the Gators a 71-70 lead with 9.8 seconds to go in the game.
Fortunately for Ole Miss, Jarvis Summers was fouled and the player of the game hit both shots to push the Rebels past the Gators for good.
Next Up: Ole Miss hosts Mississippi State Wednesday night at 8:00 pm. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
(Feature image of Jarvis Summers courtesy of Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics.)