KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ole Miss’ amazing run in the Southeastern Conference Tournament has continued into the Men’s NCAA Tournament. The No. 12 seed Rebels won their sixth straight game in a row Friday afternoon with a 57-46 triumph over No. 5 Wisconsin at the Sprint Center.Ole Miss improved to 27-8 overall and matched the most wins in school history in the process by beating the Badgers (23-12) at their own game. The Rebels were extremely tough on defense and their 2-3 zone, specifically, gave the Badgers a ton of fits. Wisconsin committed eight turnovers in the first half and finished with 11.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Friday’s game would come down to rebounding and how his team played on defense. The Rebels ended up garnering 43 rebounds, including 31 on the defensive glass following Wisconsin misses. Ole Miss also had three more second-chance points (11-8) and outscored the bigger Badgers 30-16 inside the paint.
The Rebels may have been held to their lowest point total of the season, but Kennedy felt like because his team played with great passion and won other aspects of the game, the scoring wasn’t as big of an issue.
“It was a tremendous game, a tremendous effort out of our kids. I’m really proud of the way they fought. Again, it’s not always aesthetically pleasing, but we kind of like it,” Kennedy said. “We embraced the grind three weeks ago and as a result, we’re winning basketball games.
“When you get to tournament play, a lot was made about tempo and flow. I never really thought either team got into much of an offensive flow but our defense kept us within striking range,” Kennedy continued. “We knocked down some shots in the second half. We shot 48 percent against a Wisconsin team that is highly touted on the defensive end. That gave us the separation that we needed.”
The Rebels trailed the Badgers 25-22 at the half and were down all the way until the 9:45 mark of the second half when Marshall Henderson hit his first 3-pointer of the game. That tied the contest at 36. Henderson, who went 6-for-21 from the field and 3-for-12 from 3-point range, finished with 19 points to lead all scorers in the defensive slugfest.
Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren hit a 3-pointer shortly after Henderson’s make to give the Badgers the lead again, but down the stretch, the Rebels proved to be the stronger of the two teams. Ole Miss outscored the Badgers 21-8 the final 8:33 of the contest.
The Rebels went ahead for good on steal and subsequent layup from Murphy Holloway. Playing in his first career NCAA Tournament game, Holloway scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Reginald Buckner, who has been key in the late-season run, finished with nine points and 12 rebounds. He also garnered five blocked shots, the most for a Rebel in an NCAA Tournament game.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan felt like the last seven minutes of the game really was impacted by the more physical Rebels.
“For us, I don’t think our guys handled the physicality in the last five to seven minutes. To me it seemed like the game changed and our guys didn’t react as well as they did,” said Ryan, who led the Badgers to the Sweet 16 last year. “We’re not built to play from behind. We maybe had only two games all year where we came from behind in the last three or four minutes.”
Kennedy said he has a ton of respect for Ryan, a legendary coach, who has won over 674 games counting stints in NAIA and the Division III level. He said getting the lead on the Badgers when they did was key even if his Rebels weren’t hitting shots and scoring like they did during the regular season.
“I thought it was important. For us, we wanted to stay around, stay around. We averaged 80 points in the regular season. That’s dropped to 78 and change. We never got over 66 in Nashville in the SEC tournament. This was a season low for us,” Kennedy said. “We scored 57 whopping points. We knew at the half if we could just stay in the game, I really liked the way we were locked in defensively. I did not want to be in that last three minutes, behind a possession or two simply because of their deliberate style offensively. I was afraid we would lose some concentration and they would slip us to the basket. It was huge for us to have the lead closing.”
Wisconsin finished the game just 15-for-59 from the floor, good for 25.4 percent. It was the lowest field-goal percentage of the year for the Badgers. Sam Dekker led the Badgers with 14 points while no other player scored more than eight points.
Ole Miss will play the winner of LaSalle-Kansas State game Sunday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 and the West Regional Semifinal in Los Angeles.
Below are three videos of Williams, Jarvis Summers and Buckner following the game. Summers was playing his first game since suffering a concussion against Missouri in the SEC Tournament. He finished with nine points and three assists in 32 minutes of action.
(March 22, 2013)