BLOG — Ole Miss is officially dancing. The Rebels shocked the men’s basketball world Sunday afternoon by defeating No. 13 Florida to win the Southeastern Conference Tournament title.The 66-63 win over the Gators was not only the third in three days for the Rebels here in Nashville, it also gave them their first SEC Tournament title since 1981. Ole Miss (26-8 overall) will now play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 seasons and the first time under coach Andy Kennedy.
After trailing 38-26 at the half, the Rebels overcame the Gators’ lead by going on a 17-5 run to start the second half. Marshall Henderson, the tournament MVP, made three free throws to tie the game for the first time all contest at 43. After Mike Rosario hit a layup to make it 45-43 Florida, the Rebels scored nine of the game’s next 10 points to take control.
Florida’s last lead of the game was provided on a 3-pointer by Erik Murphy at the 8:59 mark. Fourteen seconds later, Nick Williams put the Rebels back up to stay with a runner in the lane. The Gators (26-8) got as close as two points three different times in the final three minutes but they could never tie it thanks to three missed 3-pointers and a pair of free throws.
Kenny Boynton‘s missed 3-point attempt with two seconds remaining was the last chance at forcing the overtime for the Gators after Murphy Holloway hit one of two free throws with eight seconds left. Holloway, who led the Rebels with 23 points, and Reginald Buckner, who finished with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocks, were both named to the All-SEC Tournament team for their efforts. Both are seniors and playing in their final tournament.
“Our seniors I thought really, really, really played well. Obviously the Marshall Henderson show is like the traveling circus. It’s up, it’s down. We got the high wire act over here, the ponies here, we got all kinds of nonsense going on. He draws a lot of attention, he’s a big shot maker,” Kennedy said. “But really the dirty work, the grind, is being done by these three guys (Buckner, Holloway and Williams) that were on this podium today.”
Ole Miss will find out where it will be playing in the NCAA Tournament later tonight. Below are three videos after the win, including a locker room interview with LaDarius “Snoop” White, who was wearing his 2013 SEC Tournament title hat.
UPDATE (Sunday, 9:40 p.m.): Ole Miss earned a 12 seed in the West Region and will play 5th-seed Wisconsin at 11:40 a.m. on Friday on Tru TV.
During his teleconference an hour after the official NCAA Tournament announcement, Kennedy said he didn’t know much about the Badgers beyond casually observing them during the season.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Bo Ryan. I have known him for a number of years. He has a really good team and seems to be playing well just from me following college basketball. I know they made a run to their conference final and always does a terrific job,” Kennedy said. “As far as how we match up and the specifics of the matchup, I have no idea to this point. I’ve just watched them as a casual observer.”
Prior to losing to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Sunday’s Big 10 Tournament Championship Game 50-43, the Badgers defeated Michigan and Indiana by identical scores of 68-56. As a team, Wisconsin has the Big 10′s best scoring defense, allowing just 56.1 points per game.
For more on the SEC Championship game and Ole Miss’ NCAA Tournament bid, checkout Monday’s print edition of the Oxford EAGLE.
(March 17, 2013)