BLOG — Ole Miss’ inspired run through the Southeastern Conference Tournament in the New Orleans Arena came to an tough end for the Rebels as they lost 65-53 to Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon.Ole Miss hustled, scratched and clawed just as hard as it had in two previous tournament games, but the Rebels (20-13) just didn’t have enough punch on offense, not enough left in the tank to overcome the visibly fresher Commodores, who will be playing in their first SEC Tournament title game since 1951 Sunday afternoon against No. 1 Kentucky.
Vanderbilt (23-10) led Ole Miss 25-23 at the half and then outscored the Rebels 40-30 in the second. The Rebels left Vanderbilt’s best shooter, John Jenkins, a few times in the decisive second half and the end result was 13 points in the final 20 minutes of play, including three made 3-point attempts. Jenkins was joined in double figures by Brad Tinsley (12) and Lance Goulbourne (10). Kedren Johnson also played a big role off the bench for Vanderbilt as he scored all seven of his points in the final 20 minutes.
Ole Miss was led in scoring by two freshmen, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White. Summers finished with 15 points, while White had 13 in 24 minutes of action. Terrance Henry, Ole Miss’ senior leader who was trying to lead the Rebes to their first NCAA Tournament since 2002, was limited to just eight points, while Nick Williams, the hero of the Auburn win on Thursday, didn’t score in 28 minutes.
“I’m proud of my guys’ effort. They really battled and that gave us a chance. Obviously a couple of keys didn’t go our way. Our inability to string together consecutive offensive possessions has been our Achilles heel all year and it came home to rest today,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “Our inability to find John Jenkins, what a terrific shooter, and single-handily goes in a changes the game. He made us pay time and time again.”
Fatigue seemed to play a part in the Rebels shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor, including a 7-for-23 showing in the first half. The players said fatigue didn’t play a part in the loss, but Kennedy seemed to think it did, especially in the rebounding department where Ole Miss lost 36-29 to Vanderbilt.
“I appreciate them saying that because that’s what we preach to them but the practicality of it is three games in three days, it’s like my voice right now, it just leaves you,” Kennedy said. “Basketball comes down to a play or two here or there, making a shot, getting a stop, being where you’re supposed to be. There’s some telling things that we have to do to be successful.
“And the thing that jumps of the page at me when I look at the stat sheet is we get out-rebounded and we’re not very successful when we get out-rebounded. And we get four offensive rebounds. (Reggie Buckner) going down early, obviously that affected that. Some other guys, like Murphy Holloway doesn’t get an offensive rebound. Nick Williams does not get an offensive rebound. If you had told me that going into the game, I would have said ‘Hey, it probably is not going to work out for us’, and that certainly was the case.”
Saturday’s loss was a blow to the Rebels as far as their NCAA Tournament chances go. No college basketball experts had Ole Miss in the discussion of making the “Big Dance” prior to the start out of the SEC Tournament but as things went over the last few days, speculation grew that they may have a shot to make the field as an at large team, especially with a win over Vanderbilt. Now, the Rebels are left to ponder their future with the NCAA selection committee ready to announce the field of 68 Sunday.
“I really don’t know,” Henry said if he thought the Rebels had done enough to make the NCAAs. “Hopefully they show us some love tomorrow. But we’ll just be happy to still be playing basketball if that’s the case.”
“It’s up to the committee now. It’s not up to us anymore,” Holloway said.
Kennedy seemed to hedge that the Rebels were going to be left out with actually saying it on the record.
“I know that we have basketball to play. I know that there will be basketball in our future,” Kennedy said. “Where is that? I don’t know. Any time you no longer have a say in that by having an opportunity to win games, then obviously that’s not the place you want to be.” (March 10, 2012)