By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The round of 32 will have to be sweet enough for the Ole Miss basketball team.
The city where magic happened for Ole Miss in 2001 had less of it this year as No. 13 seed La Salle will wear the Cinderella slipper in the NCAA West Regional after defeating No. 12 seed Ole Miss 75-74 on Sunday night at Sprint Arena.
It was the third win of the tournament for the Explorers (24-9) of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Marshall Henderson led Ole Miss with 21 points, but the Rebels were outdone by La Salle’s Ramon Galloway, who scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half.
The Rebels (27-9) struggled with the athleticism of the Explorers, who forced nine turn-overs in the first half, and it was the athletic drive through the heart of the zone defense by Tyrone Garland that proved to be the game-winning shot with 2.5 seconds left.
The Rebels were bidding for the second Sweet 16 appearance in school history. They advanced to the Sweet 16 in San Antonio in 2001 after defeating Iona and Notre Dame in Kansas City.
Ole Miss set a school-record with 27 victories that season, a figure matched on Friday when the Rebels surprised No. 5 seed Wisconsin 57-46.
La Salle was playing its third game in five days. The Explorers were forced to play in one of the “First Four” games in Dayton, Ohio, where they beat Boise State 80-71 to reach the field of 64. They upset No. 4 seed Kansas State 63-61 on Friday before an overwhelming pro-Kansas State crowd.
Ole Miss avoided the “First Four” with its run to the SEC tournament championship in Nashville last weekend.
It was the second meeting between Ole Miss and La Salle, a private school in Northwest Philadelphia with an undergraduate enrollment of 4,516.
The Rebels defeated the Explorers 84-77 in December, 2007, Andy Kennedy’s second season as Ole Miss coach.