Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy hoped Vanderbilt would experience somewhat of a letdown after the Commodores’ 77-60 huge upset win over No. 8 Texas A&M on Thursday night.
He got his wish.
After giving up a 68-55 lead midway through the second half, Ole Miss (15-8, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) held on to defeat the Commodores 85-78 Saturday night inside The Pavilion.
The win gives Ole Miss a 32-24 all-time lead against Vanderbilt in Oxford. Kennedy knows this was a big victory for his team:
Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy
Vandy takes the early lead
Vanderbilt had looked to put the Rebels away early, scoring eight straight points to take an early 8-2 lead. Luke Kornet drained three-consecutive three-pointers during the run to help the Commodores quickly jump out front. Ole Miss wouldn’t take the lead until Moody drained a three from the right wing. However, Vandy quickly regained the lead with a three of its own from Riley LaChance.
Early on, there were a few uneven moments for Ole Miss, as the Rebels struggled to find some sort of offense with the five starters—Moody, Perez, Brooks, Newby, and Hymon—on the court.
A jumper by Josh Henderson gave the Commodores their biggest lead of the night at 36-26, and that score seemed to take the Rebels out it both mentally and physically as Ole Miss shot only 32.4 percent from the field in the first half—35.8 percent for the game. Vanderbilt came in Saturday night’s matchup leading the SEC in field goal percentage defense allowing opponents to shoot only 38 percent from the field.
But the Rebels came roaring back with consecutive three-pointers from Gielo and Brooks, and that sliced Ole Miss’ deficit to 38-32. The Rebels would close the gap even more with three foul shots by Moody and a late free throw jumper by Gielo.
At the beginning of the second half, the Rebels, who found themselves down 39-37, traded baskets with the Commodores. Ole Miss struck first with a three by Anthony Perez, and then Vandy’s junior forward Damian Jones answered with a layup.
After Vanderbilt (13-10, 5-5) led 50-47, Ole Miss went on a 7-2 scoring run to take a 54-50 lead. But the Commodores answered and silenced the home crowd with a 3-point play by Kornet, who finished with a team-high 20 points on 7 for 17 shooting in 37 minutes. Yet, Vanderbilt trailed and continued to play catch up the rest of the way.
The Rebels kept firing on all cylinders by going on a 10-2 run that was capped off by a Brooks’ transition layup, which put Ole Miss up 64-55. The Rebels built their lead up to 68-55 with 5:44 to go.
But Ole Miss allowed the Commodores to go on 12-0 run to get within one, and Rebel fans found themselves a bit nervous as to the outcome. Somehow, Kennedy’s bunch was able to get back into their groove and outscore Vanderbilt 17-11 in the final 4:08.
Foul trouble for both teams
Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings had three of his most reliable players in foul trouble with Wade Baldwin IV, Jeff Roberson and Jones fouling out as the game was slipping away. Kennedy also dealt with foul trouble with Gielo and Perez fouling out late in the game. Both Martavious Newby and Moody played with four fouls.
Stallings was at a loss for words for how his team performed in the second half:
Vandy head coach Kevin Stallings
Baldwin finished with 19 points and nine assists for Vandy, while Nolan Cressler had 14 points.
Stallings is unsure where his team is going. “How do we bounce back from arguably our best game of the season on Thursday night? Not very well,” Stallings said. “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that. If I had an answer for that, I probably wouldn’t be as frustrated as I am.”
On a transition play, Baldwin connected on a layup after being fouled by Ole Miss’ Rasheed Brooks. Apparently Baldwin didn’t like the foul and was in a scuffle with Brooks. Teammates from both sides came to intervene. Technical fouls were given to Baldwin and Cressler for Vanderbilt and Moody and Gielo for Mississippi.
The layup was part of the Commodores’ 12-0 run and Baldwin converted on the 3-point play to cut his team’s deficit to 68-64.
Rebels travel to Florida on Tuesday.
Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics