OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy didn’t want to attribute his team’s loss on Saturday night to just one thing.
But it was apparent Ole Miss was not the same team after sophomore center Reginald Buckner went down with an apparent bruised knee in the first minute of the second half.
The Rebels lost in overtime, 78-71, to Dayton after leading 46-33 at halftime.
When Buckner exited the contest with help from trainers, things changed.
“I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” Kennedy said, hopeful Buckner will be back for the Rebels’ next game which is Friday night at home against Penn State. “We’ve got guys on scholarship in an SEC program. We’ve lost games before, but I don’t know if we’ve ever lost one like that of just getting totally dominated on the glass.”
Ole Miss appeared to be incomplete control, even without Buckner, at least for a while. The Rebs led 50-34 with 17 minutes left in the game and still led by 13 points at 63-50 with just more than eight minutes remaining in regulation.
But the Flyers, who eliminated Ole Miss from the NIT in New York City last spring with a 68-63 win, methodically kept chipping away in this one.
And they got some help from an Ole Miss team that went ice cold from the field.
Shooters ‘freeze up’
The Rebels were 2 for 19 from the floor in the game’s final eight minutes. From 3-point range during that stretch, the Rebels were 0 for 14.
“Our inability to make a play. We just froze up and couldn’t make a play,” Kennedy said. “That was very unusual for us. Our inability to finish inside. Our inability to come up and grab a hard defensive rebound during crunch time ended up putting us in a position where we could lose. And that’s what happened.”
Ole Miss held a 19-15 edge in rebounding after the first half. By game’s end, the Flyers had a big edge on the boards, 51-35.
“I know I’m a big part of that,” senior guard/forward Zach Graham. “I didn’t have any rebounds tonight. We’ve got to rebound collectively as a team. Reggie is such a big force out there. It hurt us a little when he came out. But I have to step up and help more.”
Ole Miss had a 13-2 lead early and kept it throughout the first half. Actually Dayton never led until the overtime period. The Flyers, now 3-0, took their first lead at 71-69 with 57 seconds to go in the extra period and never lost it.
Graham led five Ole Miss players in double figures with 16 points. Senior guard Chris Warren had 11 but was only 1 for 12 from 3-point range.
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JEFF ROBERSON / Special to the Journal