By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – The bad news is, there could be six more weeks of winter.
The good news for Ole Miss fans is the Rebels didn’t play like frightened groundhogs when they trailed South Carolina by 15 points with 10 minutes, 53 seconds left.
Ole Miss closed Saturday’s game with a 29-10 run boosted by forced turnovers and big shots and held off the Gamecocks 75-71 before a Tad Smith Coliseum crowd of 6,977.
The win gives Andy Kennedy’s Rebels (15-6, 6-2 SEC) a season sweep of South Carolina (8-13, 1-7) and his good friend Frank Martin.
No shots were bigger than the two perimeter jump shots from Jarvis Summers that twice gave Ole Miss the lead, though the put-back from Aaron Jones that sealed it easily qualifies as next best.
A Summers 3-pointer with 4:00 left gave Ole Miss a 67-66 lead. After the Gamecocks went back in front, Summers hit a pull-up jumper from 15 feet to make it 69-68.
Summers scored in the lane with 1:32 left, and the Rebels were up 71-69 when he found Jones for a layup and three-point play with 23.8 seconds remaining.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited about what I just witnessed. That was big-time basketball,” Kennedy said. “We got stops, came up with loose balls, and we were able to be very efficient down the stretch.”
Summers, averaging almost 18 points a game, had been held to six points before the comeback began.
He had a layup at the 9:50 mark to bring the Rebels to within 11 points at 61-50.
Summers finished with 15 points. Marshall Henderson led Ole Miss with 21 points in spite of hitting just two 3-pointers. He was 2-for-9 from outside the 3-point arc, 5-for-8 from inside.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said Summers didn’t figure out any special Gamecocks defense down the stretch.
“He just shot it. In the first half he passed up some shots that were there. In the second half the game was hard. He and Marshall said ‘uh uh.’ He took shots and made them. My guys passed up shots,” Martin said.
Gamecocks guard Brenton Williams didn’t pass up too many shots. He was 0-for-10 from the floor against Ole Miss two weeks ago but was 5-for-8 from 3-point range in the rematch. He missed his last two attempts, both in the final minute.
The Rebels were in a groove on offense early, but things changed. The Gamecocks shot 56 percent in the first half and built a 40-35 lead that they quickly extended in the final frame.
Ole Miss scored 23 points off 18 turnovers forced, with 14 of those points in the second half.
The Rebels were minus-10 on the glass, a statistic forgiven by Kennedy, at least momentarily, when Jones converted the three-point play.
“He made a layup, he made a layup! Did y’all get that on tape? I want to show him that,” Kennedy said. “I told him at the last timeout, ‘Dude, stop looking around for Murph and Reg, they’re gone. You’re the guy. Go make a play.’”