ATLANTA — Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers each scored 21 points, Anthony Perez added 10, and Ole Miss used a late offensive surge to knock off Mississippi State 78-66 in its opening game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament late Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
The win moved the Rebels (19-13 overall) into a quarterfinal matchup against Georgia late Friday night.
Fred Thomas and Craig Sword scored 16 points apiece to lead Mississippi State, which struggled to keep up with the Rebels after halftime. I.J. Ready had 10 points while Gavin Ware chipped in eight points and 10 rebounds.
Ole Miss won two of the season’s three meetings between the teams and made it two in a row against its in-state rival after beating the Bulldogs 82-63 in the previous matchup on Jan. 25. Getting the latter of the two victories wasn’t nearly as easy.
Mississippi State (14-19) led by as many as 12 in the first half and took its largest lead at 51-38 four minutes into the second half when I.J. Ready grabbed a loose ball and went coast-to-coast for a layup.
The Rebels answered with a 17-5 run to pull within one and grabbed a 57-56 lead on Ladarius White’s driving layup with 8:15 left to play. Ole Miss pushed the lead to eight at 68-60 on Henderson’s sixth 3 of the night with 3:38 left, and he put in another one immediately out of a timeout to create some real separation from the weary Bulldogs.
Playing its second game in a 24-hour span, Mississippi State cooled off considerably after a hot start, making just three of their first 19 shots out of the locker room and finishing the second half with four baskets. Henderson and Summers rebounded from a combined 6-for-21 showing in the first half to shoot 47 percent (8 of 17) in the final 20 minutes.
Henderson wasn’t all that efficient. He finished just 7 of 21 from the floor and had to put up a new SEC Tournament single game-record 19 3-point attempts in order to get seven to fall, but four of them came during the Rebels’ second-half rally. Ole Miss outscored the Bulldogs 40-15 in the final 16 minutes.
Perez and center Demarco Cox picked up the slack when everyone else’s shots weren’t falling. Perez converted an old-fashioned three-point play and hit a 3 for six of his seven first-half points while Cox scored eight points to help Ole Miss keep the deficit within single digits early.
The Rebels needed every bit of it.
Mississippi State’s collective stroke picked up where it left off in its win over Vanderbilt the night before. After making 59 percent of their shots against the Commodores, the Bulldogs hit their first six shots to run out to a 15-4 lead. The shots kept falling as Mississippi State eventually built a 42-30 advantage and took a 44-35 lead into the break.
Perez talks about the win, the confidence it brings in trying to make another deep tournament run and what he brought to the table in the video below.
See Friday’s edition of the EAGLE for more from tonight’s game. (March 13, 2014)