OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss held the lead with just seconds to play in the game, but the Tennessee Volunteers showed why they are the No. 7 team in the country as they found a way to defeat the Rebels, 73-71, in The Pavilion Wednesday night.
How close was it? Up by one point with 18 seconds to go, the Rebels were fouled and headed to the line. After going 100% (14-14) at the charity stripe throughout the game, Ole Miss couldn’t hit the front end of the one-and-one and the Vols rebounded the ball.
Grant Williams’ layup gave Tennessee a one-point lead with three seconds to play.
As Devontae Shuler took the Rebels’ last-second shot, he was called for charging. Following the call, an understandably upset Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis was on the receiving end of a technical.
After the game, Coach Davis described the Rebels’ final play.
“(Grant Williams) made a great play,” Davis said. “Devontae (Shuler) went straight downhill. He got deep on that floor. I’m sure Rick Barnes didn’t want Admiral Schofield to take the charge in that situation. That’s a risky play, I mean it just is. We’ll look at the tape and see what happened. But part of the circumstances that’s just what you want, you want guys to go downhill,” he explained.
“I wanted TD (Terence Davis) or Breein Tyree to go downhill. That’s about what you can get, about a 20 to 25-footer because they’re going to try to pressure you. I thought he (Devontae) did exactly what he could do. It was a charge and a great (defensive) and risky play, but he got it and we’ll just move on from there.“
Slow start, but fast first-half finish
For the first several minutes of the game, Tennessee absolutely dominated the boards—holding Ole Miss scoreless for the first four minutes after tipoff.
The game plan for the Vols was obviously to force poor shots from the confident Rebel guards and, initially, that worked as Tennessee built an 11-3 lead.
But Terence Davis and Devontae Shuler took matters into their own hands and helped lead Ole Miss on a 10-2 run that tied the game at the 10:44 mark of the half.
The Rebels shot 45% (5-11) from long range in the first half, while the Vols could only muster 14% (1-7) from three, and Ole Miss took a 39-34 lead into intermission.
Slow start, part two
In the opening four minutes of the second frame, Tennessee went on a 14-0 run to go up 48-41 on Ole Miss—but just as they did in the first half, the Rebels fought back to within two at the 10:58 mark.
Then, Terence Davis knocked down a massive 3-pointer that electrified the home crowd and gave his squad a one-point lead with 9:40 to go in the game. The Rebs and Vols traded baskets for the remainder of the game until the frenzied end of the contest.
The stretch run…
Ole Miss had a one-point lead, 66-65, going into the final five minutes of regulation. Blake Hinson was on the bench with four fouls, and the team was stretched thin.
Ole Miss took a 69-67 lead at the 2:40 mark via a deep Tyree three, but his long ball was followed by a free throw from the Vols that brought the score to within one, 69-68.
With Buffen now fouled out, Hinson made his return to the game with just under 2 minutes to go. Ole Miss got a huge stop on the defensive side of the court and quickly called a timeout with just 1:11 remaining on the clock. They held, yes, you guessed it, a 1-point lead.
The final minute
In the ensuing possession following the timeout, Tyree saved a potential turnover and Hinson was fouled, giving the freshman the chance to put his team up by three. Hinson hit both from the charity line, giving the Rebels a 71-68 lead with 33 seconds to play.
Ole Miss fans could not rest yet; however, as Tennessee went right down the court and gave Jordan Bowden a two-point jumper that cut the lead, once again to one point at 71-70 with just 18.9 seconds remaining.
Naturally, the Vols called a timeout. The question for their head coach Rick Barnes was whether or not to foul the Rebels—who at that point were 14-14 from the foul line in the game.
The Vols chose to foul, sending Tyree to the line.
Tyree missed the free throw, and UT quickly took the ball down for a hard-fought layup from Williams that gave his Vols a 72-71 lead over Ole Miss. And the rest is, unfortunately, history.
“He’s heartbroken,” Coach Davis said of Tyree.
“We have some great free throw shooters, and he’s one of the top in the SEC. We ran a set play to get him the ball to get fouled, and he got open. We were going to call timeout if he hit both, which we all anticipated, to get us up three. We did some switching, even the last play I thought we guarded well. (Grant) Williams kind of stumbled but he made an unbelievable play. He took an off-balance shot and give him credit. He (Breein) is distraught but you all know that Breein has made some big time free throws for us.“
Four Ole Miss players finished in double figures: Breein Tyree (16), Terence Davis (16), Blake Hinson (14), Bruce Stevens (10).
(Click here for full box score.)
The Vols dominated the Rebels in the paint, 36-18. Despite being such a lopsided scoring affair down low, the Rebels actually tied the Vols in the rebounding column where both teams brought down 32 boards on the night.
Ole Miss’ NCAA tourney outlook
While this win would’ve essentially “punched the ticket” for Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament, Coach Davis’ team still has three opportunities to do so.
Yes, it goes without saying, the loss stings. It was heartbreaking.
But keep in mind, just one more win—which would put them at 10—should get this Rebel team to the tourney, something that seemed nearly impossible just six months ago.
And also keep in mind, Ole Miss has another chance at a top ten team next week when they host the Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday. A win in that game and the Rebs will be sitting pretty.
As for Coach Davis, he doesn’t know how many wins his team needs to get in, but he knows they’ll keep working hard. “We’ve got work to do; everybody in college basketball has work to do,” he said after the game.
“A lot of times people start looking at the eye test this time of year and watching those kinds of teams. (Ole Miss and Tennessee) looked like NCAA Tournament teams, and I thought tonight we did. Do we have work to do? You bet, but everybody has work to do. We have a big game at Arkansas on Saturday. I want our guys to feel, act, and carry ourselves like we are an NCAA Tournament team.“
Postgame press conference
(Video: Archie Breland, The Rebel Walk)
Ole Miss hits the road to Fayetteville, Arkansas to face the 14-14 Razorbacks this Saturday. The two teams last met on January 19 when Ole Miss handed Mike Anderson’s ball club an 84-67 loss at the Pavilion. The contest is scheduled to tip at Noon (CT) and will be televised on the SEC Network.