BLOG — A series of missed opportunities late in the game cost the Ole Miss Rebels a chance of defeating the Kentucky Wildcats for the second time this season.Ole Miss was bounced from the Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Friday evening by the Wildcats after dropping a 75-66 decision in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The Rebels (20-13) appeared to play the hardest they have all year long in the loss, but not making free throws at critical stages of the game, as well as field goals when they got open looks, doomed them from defeating UK for the first time in the SEC Tournament.
Chris Warren ended up leading the Rebels with 20 points in the loss, but he was just 5-for-20 from the field. Kentucky (23-8), who will now play Alabama in the first semifinal game on Saturday, did a great job of slowing the All-SEC performer and when Warren did get a clean look, OM coach Andy Kennedy felt like his legs were never really under him to connect on a consistent basis.
“They guarded him with size. DeAndre Liggins, who is on the all defensive teams which means he’s obviously one of the best defenders in our league, he’s strong, he’s 6’6″, 6’7″, got great length, and the length bothered him. We tried to put Chris in space, and in space, he was much more effective in the second half,” Kennedy said. “And as I talked yesterday, I thought that there’s a little bit of an advantage for playing the first day, obviously, if you advance, because you’ve got some familiarity with your surroundings. The downside is, I had to play him 40 minutes last night and he played 39 tonight.
“If you noticed all of the shots that Liggins didn’t get to because of his length, they all finished short, and I was cognizant of that,” Kennedy added. “But our best chance to win is with 12 on the floor. So every time I asked him, I wanted to take him out, he didn’t want to come out. He’s earned that right. And 79 minutes over a 24-hour period, that’s a lot to ask.”
Terrance Henry recorded another double-double for the Rebels as he finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Dundrecous Nelson overcame a slow start to finish with 14 points, while Zach Graham finished with 11 points for the Rebels.
Doron Lamb led Kentucky with 19 points, while Brandon Knight finished with 17 points.
Ole Miss will now await its postseason future, likely to be in the Men’s NIT. That tournament will be announced after the NCAA Tournament is selected. (March 11, 2011)