By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – While Marshall Henderson kept Ole Miss in the game, freshman Derrick Millinghaus hit the shot that may have put them in the NCAA Tournament.
It certainly keeps them in the conversation.
Millinghaus fueled a second-half rally and his floater with 1.1 seconds remaining was the game-winner in the Rebels’ 64-62 win over Missouri at Bridgestone Arena late Friday night.
Millinghaus ended up with the ball after Henderson couldn’t get a clean look.
“I looked and saw the lane was open, so I took one dribble and just threw it up,” Millinghaus said. “I was kind of shaky. I was like I don’t want to miss and take all the blame for this loss. It went in and I was like, ‘Yes.’ ”
The Tigers (22-10) could have played for the last shot but turned it over on the inbounds under the Ole Miss basket.
Millinghaus finished with 11 points, Henderson with 27.
“I think we’ve just created a really big rivalry in the SEC between Ole Miss and Missouri,” Henderson said. “That’s good.”
Missouri and Ole Miss went to a neutral court to play their most hotly contested game of the year.
It went the way of the Rebels – in a situation where a loss would likely have left them on the outside looking into the NCAA tournament yet again.
Ole Miss (24-8) will take on No. 10 seed Vanderbilt (16-16) in Saturday’s semifinal at 2:30 p.m. The game will be on ABC.
Friday’night’s meeting had similarities to the road loss in that Tigers’ center Alex Oriakhi was tough to handle inside.
Oriakhi wasn’t quite the beast he was on Feb. 9 when he had 22 points and 18 rebounds, but his first-half play got the Tigers out in front.
The play of point guard Phil Pressey helped Oriakhi get clean looks, and it was finally Pressey and Ole Miss freshman Millinghaus trading 3s inside the final minute to make it 62-all with 29.2 seconds to play.
Millinghaus fueled a second-half rally that saw the Rebels erase a 13-point deficit as Missouri struggled to hit shots around the rim.
Ole Miss tied the game when Reggie Buckner scored with an assist from Murphy Holloway with 2:22 left, but Missouri regained the lead on an Oriakhi putback.
Henderson, the SEC’s leading free throw shooter, hit two to knot things up at 59 with 1:08 left.
“We got a gift at the end when they threw us the ball, but our effort and tenacity (were) simply because we were on death row, and we knew that in order to get off death row, you’ve got to make a play,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “And we were fortunate enough to make one or two.”
Pressey and the Missouri guards didn’t shoot as well as they did in Columbia, but his seven assists made things easier for Oriakhi and his other teammates.
The Tigers stretched a seven-point halftime lead to 12 before six quick points from Henderson – three free throws and a 3-pointer – made it 42-36, and Missouri called time with 14 minutes, 23 seconds remaining.
Missouri came out of the timeout with a 7-0 run started when Jabari Brown hit a 3 with Henderson in his face, and when Earnest Ross scored with an offensive rebound kept alive by an Oriakhi tip.
As the Rebels (24-8) increasingly relied on Henderson, his burden became heavier early in the second half when Jarvis Summers caught an unintentional elbow from Missouri’s Laurence Bowers, became wobbly and fell to the floor before heading to the locker room.
Into the breach stepped Millinghaus, the 5-foot-10 guard, who was averaging 5.6 points per game. He went 5-for-8 in 22 minutes.
Both teams were sloppy early. Finally, Henderson broke the scoring ice with a 3-pointer almost 3 minutes in.
Missouri scored the next eight points.
Ole Miss came back to take a 13-11 edge, but Missouri began to settle in.
Buckner and Holloway each picked up two early fouls. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy didn’t have to luxury of sitting them for an extended period of time, so the Rebels went zone, making it harder to get out in the transition game.
“Every single game we’ve watched on TV (there) has been a big lead and it’s come back down to the end, every single one of them that we’ve watched in the conference tournaments,” Henderson said. “We knew at some point it was going to break our way. We just had to make some plays and get some stops.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.