By Todd Vinyard
CHATTANOOGA Two things you should never start early are an autopsy and counting out Van Chancellor’s Lady Rebels.
Ole Miss trailed by 10 points in the first half, two at halftime, and three with less than a minute left before finally overcoming Arkansas 76-73 Friday in the first round of the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament.
“I must need to go to Las Vegas right now as lucky as we were, but we just did it the old fashioned Ole Miss Lady Rebel way of finding a way to win,” said Chancellor, whose team probably clinched its 14th NCAA appearance.
After being down 31-29 at halftime, Ole Miss made a 16-4 run to take a 45-35 lead with 15 minutes, 15 seconds left.
That lead disappeared, though, as the Lady Razorbacks went up 73-72 and Lady Rebel All-SEC selection Yolanda Moore fouled out with 1:07 to go.
Time for Ole Miss guard Regan Seybert, 0-for-5 in the first half, to hit a 15-foot top of the key shot for a 74-73 Rebel advantage.
“I wasn’t shooting well to start and coach Chancellor just told me to settle down,” Seybert said.
Chancellor chimed in, “That’s putting it mildly.”
While Seybert finished with only four points, her basket to give Ole Miss the lead for good was the biggest of the contest.
Arkansas wasn’t about to raise the white flag. The Lady Razorbacks got the ball to 6-foot-3 center Shaka Massey under the bucket with eight seconds left. Lady Rebel forward Dorianne Johnson knocked the ball away, and Rebel Lisa Miller was fouled after grabbing it.
“I was just reaching for the ball, and then it came out. I just yelled, ‘Yes!’, “Johnson said in her best Marv Albert voice.
Miller hit one of two free throws to finish the thriller.
“This was a very well played, well officiated SEC women’s basketball game,” Arkansas coach Gary Blair said. “It is just a shame both teams will not play Saturday. One team was going to have to make the plays down the stretch and Ole Miss did.”
For Ole Miss (18-9), Christie Sides scored 19 points and Johnson and Moore had 11 each. Arkansas (20-11) was led by Massey’s 19 points, Sytia Messer and Kimberly Wilson had 14 each, and Kelly Johnson added 12.
The Lady Rebels’ reward for surviving against Arkansas is a matchup against No. 5 Tennessee (23-4) at 2 p.m. today. The game will be broadcast on WQLJ-FM (93.7) in Oxford. Ole Miss defeated Tennessee 79-72 in Oxford on Feb. 4 to become one of just two SEC teams to beat the Lady Vols this year.
“They are one of the best teams in the country and will be looking for revenge,” Chancellor said. “We will have 150 fans; they will have 5,000. I just hope I have been nice enough to (Tennessee coach) Pat Summitt so she will take it easy on us.”