By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss gave Florida its best shot in the first half, but then the Gators showed they could beat the Rebels at the defensive game.
With 3-point shots raining down Tuesday inside Tad Smith Coliseum Ole Miss led by 16 in the first half and by 10 at the break, but a crowd of 7,488 left disappointed when No. 14 Florida held the Rebels to 27.6 percent shooting in the second half and rallied to win 64-60.
The Rebels were 6-of-6 from 3-point range in the first half but 1-for-6 in the second. Had they managed to get one more to drop they’d have forced overtime, but Maurice Aniefiok fumbled the ball after point guard Jarvis Summers drove to the rim and passed back outside.
It was the shot Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy wanted if not the player. Aniefiok averages 9.5 minutes a game, though he hasn’t reached nine minutes in the last four.
“In fairness to Maurice, I threw him right into the fire. He had not played the whole game,” Kennedy said. “We had the best-case scenario. I just wish we’d have shot the ball.”
Foul trouble for Murphy Holloway, who eventually fouled out with 48 seconds left, caused Kennedy to dig deeper into his bench.
Holloway played just eight minutes in the first half.
“That hurt us a lot. He’s a big part of our team, and we can’t win without him on the floor,” junior guard Nick Williams said.
Williams keyed the big first half run, going 4-for-4 from 3-point range and getting 12 of his 14 points then.
Terrance Henry posted his second-straight double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, going 9-for-16 from the floor.
But it was the Gators (16-4, 4-1 SEC) who hit the big shots in the second half. Florida knocked down 3-point shots on three-straight possessions in the final 5 minutes, 33 seconds when it went from a 52-50 deficit to a 59-54 lead. Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton hit the buckets for the Gators, whose better second-half shooting was spurred by dribble penetration from guard Erving Walker.
“I don’t know that our defense was that much different in the second half. I thought they had an unbelievable first half,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
The Rebels went up 52-50 with Reggie Buckner scored with an offensive rebound with 6:26 to play.
Florida shot 52 percent in the second half and held the Rebels (13-7, 3-3) to 27.6 percent. Ole Miss shot 60.9 percent in the first half.
The Gators had enough inside presence to compete with the Rebels’ frontcourt. Sophomore center Patric Young was 7-for-10 from the floor, most of them dunks, and finished with 15 points.
“I thought they were very physical inside,” Kennedy said. “Patric Young is a beast. They were switching on some ball screens, and we weren’t strong enough to power through.”