By John Luke McCord
Special to the Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss had yet to suffer a daunting, non-conference loss this season, prior to Sunday’s date with the Mercer Bears. The Rebels’ resume will now take a hit after losing to the Bears by a final score of 79-76.
Mercer point guard Langston Hall hit a three-point shot with 0.6 seconds remaining as the Bears (8-4) erased a seven-point deficit in the final six minutes.
Ole Miss (8-3) had previously lost a home date in overtime to Oregon and a road game to Kansas State. Neither of those looked to be bumps in the road in the Rebels’ quest to return to the NCAA tournament; now things are different. Now the Rebels are losers of three of their last five, with two of their losses at home.
“We’ve lost two games at home this year already, we have to fix that,” freshman forward Sebastian Saiz, who lead the Rebels with 11 rebounds Sunday night. “I think we have to play harder at the start of the game.”
Jarvis Summers scored 21 points to lead Ole Miss, while Marshall Henderson added 18 – including a late 3-pointer to tie the game at 76.
After trailing most of the game, and by as many as 16 in the second half, the Rebels led 67-60 with five minutes left in the game. The Bears went on an 8-0 run to regain the lead.
“You breathe life back in them and put yourself in a position where one play beats you and that’s what happened. The team that makes the most plays is typically going to win, Mercer made the most plays, they deserve to win,” Andy Kennedy said.
The Rebels trailed by 12 at the half, in large part due to giving up 13 points off of turnovers and the Bears attempting 17 free throws to the just four for the Rebels.
Ole Miss has struggled in a major way on the boards this season, especially in its last two wins and not much else was different on Sunday. Despite gathering 15 offensive rebounds, the Rebels trailed Mercer in rebounds 39-35.
“That’s the third consecutive game we’ve been out-rebounded. It’s ridiculous, honestly, it’s ridiculous,” Kennedy said.
Ike Nwamu led Mercer (8-4) with 24 points before fouling out late and Kennedy praised him.
“No. 10, I don’t want to butcher his name so I won’t say it, but what an incredible game that kid had,” Kennedy said.