Never seen one finish quite like that.
Word on the street is the Rebels aren’t done with the NCAA conversation. Whatever happens, it’s out of their hands now.
It looked to me on the replay like LaDarius White really did commit the foul that sent Tyrone Johnson to the free throw line for the win. The debate may be in whether the foul should have been called. The officials did call a perimeter foul seconds before when Jarvis Summers’ four-point play gave Ole Miss the lead.
Players were devastated in the locker room after the game. These tournaments provide a rare peek inside the locker room with mandatory interview availability for all players.
Ole Miss players said before the game they felt like they had to win at least one to reach the NCAA tournament. They were stunned but still hopeful.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Rebels among his last four in.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy praised Lunardi’s work in the postgame presser. Here’s his blog post.
“The guy who is on the World Wide Leader, and there’s a reason that they have coined the phrase that everybody knows, because typically he’s pretty good. I think there were six or seven or eight teams behind us. I have no idea what those teams have done today one way or the other. We have not taken destiny out of our own hands.”
“We shot ourselves in the foot. We needed that one. We needed it,” forward M.J. Rhett said. “We kind of had a high seed. Hopefully we’re still in there.”
High isn’t the word, but the Rebels weren’t exactly on the edge before losing tonight. Texas, Texas A&M, Old Dominion, Illinois and Miami were among bubble teams that have lost in conference tournament play.
Ole Miss shot itself in the foot by shooting just 30.2 percent from the floor. The Rebels were plus-11 on the glass, but it doesn’t really matter how many possessions you get if you’re not knocking down shots.
Before the Summers four-point play he and Stefan Moody were a combined 5-for-24 from the floor.
South Carolina, as many teams have done, used a bigger player to chase and bother the 5-foot-10 Moody.
“As a player, a mature player in this league, I just have to adjust no matter the size of the defender,” Moody said. “It was a bad shooting night, nothing he did, just me.”
The play that ended with a Summers 3-pointer and a free throw was designed for Moody.
“Basically coach just called a play us and wanted me to come off a screen and give it to Moody. Two people got on Moody, and he just dished it back to me. I stepped up and made the shot.”
South Carolina led for 35 minutes, 55 seconds of the game. Ole Miss was up 2-0 and did not lead again until two free throws by White with 6:07 to play to make it 45-44. That was the fifth opportunity for the Rebels to take the lead after failing in their four previous possessions.
Once Ole Miss got the lead it couldn’t gain separation. After White put Ole Miss ahead there were five more lead changes leading up to the final-seconds heroics.
“We struggled all night offensively,” Kennedy said. “If you look at our 12 losses, there’s a common theme, and that’s our inability to find any rhythm offensively.”