By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – To paraphrase ZZ Top, the Rebels will have the legs and they hope they can use them.
Ole Miss avoided the NCAA tournament “First Four” games in Dayton with its run through the SEC tournament.
La Salle wasn’t as lucky, and the No. 13-seeded Explorers (23-9) will be playing for the third time in five days when they take on the Rebels tonight at 6:40 in a third-round game at Sprint Center.
La Salle upset No. 4 seed Kansas State 63-61 on Friday, minutes after the Rebels (27-8) advanced by knocking off No. 5 seed Wisconsin.
Tonight’s winner will advance to the Sweet 16 round of the West Region in Los Angeles.
“We’ve got to get up into those guys tomorrow, and make things tough on them. We’ve got to make them shoot outside shots, but we’ve got to make them miss,” Ole Miss guard Nick Williams said.
Kansas State didn’t do that soon enough.
La Salle hit 18 of 31 shots (58.1 percent) in building a 44-26 halftime lead against the Wildcats in an arena filled with purple-clad K-State fans.
The Explorers, though, hit only three of 18 shots in the second half.
“We couldn’t get a field goal. We only had three. Obviously that says something about fatigue, a little bit, and that Kansas State’s defense was so good,” said La Salle junior guard Tyrone Garland, who was 1-for-8 from the floor, 0-for-3 from the 3-point line.
La Salle’s leading scorer, Ramon Galloway, was 6-for-11 in the first half including 3-for-5 from the arc. He was 0-for-4 in the second half with two 3-point attempts.
Down a point with 63 seconds left, Garland short-ironed a contested jump shot. Possession returned to the Wildcats, but La Salle forced two misses in the last half-minute and got to the free throw line twice where Jeremy Wright was good three times.
The Explorers downplay the fatigue factor.
“You can’t look at it as playing three games in five days. You’ve got to look at it as do or die,” junior guard Tyreek Duren said. “You’ve got to want it, survive and advance.”
Ole Miss players saw in Nashville just how big an advantage an opponent’s wobbly legs can be as they pulled away from Vanderbilt in the second half of the semifinal game.
Rebels coach Andy Kennedy played a lot of zone that day, wanting to force as many jump shots as he could.
“We have to execute and play ball, but they’ve done played two games in three days,” Ole Miss guard LaDarius White said. “If we just take care of the ball and run up and down the floor, fatigue will be a major part of this game.”
No. 12 Ole Miss vs. No. 13 La Salle
Tip: 6:40 p.m., Sprint Center (18,972), Kansas City, Mo.
Radio: Ole Miss network, MSU network. Satellite: Sirius 192, XM 94
Series: Ole Miss leads 1-0.
Coaches – La Salle: Dr. John Giannini, 439-286, 24th season, 142-137, ninth season at La Salle; Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy, 173-99, eighth season, 152-86, seventh season at Ole Miss.
Notes: Ole Miss has advanced to the NCAA’s round of 32 for the third time in school history. … Reggie Buckner is the first player in school history to play on teams that won 20 or more games in each of his four seasons. … Buckner had five blocked shots against Wisconsin, increasing his school record total to 324, the fifth-most in SEC history. … He has had five or more blocked shots five times this season. … Murphy Holloway needs eight steals to become the first player in SEC history with 1,400 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 steals in a career. … The Explorers are 13-10 in 12 NCAA tournament appearances.