One and Done?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LaDarius White was short and succinct, his words direct and pointed.

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“Not at all,” he said.

Ole Miss’ stay in the SEC tournament ended abruptly with a 60-58 loss to South Carolina Thursday night. The Rebels now find themselves in a precarious NCAA tournament situation, possibly on the outside looking in and in need of help.

And they’re where they are because of a foul call. A foul call that will be debated by Ole Miss fans for a while and by some college basketball fans for a few days.

“It really doesn’t matter what I think,” of the call, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.

Ole Miss (20-12) appeared on the cusp of an improbable win. The Rebels struggled through another difficult offensive performance, shooting 30.2 percent from the floor for the game, including 28.6 percent in the second half. They turned the ball over 21 times.

But Jarvis Summers made a 3-pointer and the foul with 3.3 seconds remaining to give them the lead. Somehow, some way Ole Miss was going to win. March Madness had returned to shine in Ole Miss’ favor.

Until it didn’t.

South Carolina guard Tyrone Johnson feverishly dribbled up court and stopped behind the 3-point line, White and fellow Rebel guard Stefan Moody in defense. He heaved a desperation 3 and missed badly.

Only White was called for a foul.

“I saw him coming in hard,” Johnson, who went on to sink all three of his free-throw attempts, said. “I just jumped up and he fouled me.”

There was contact, no doubt. White appeared to hook Johnson’s arm. However, whether or not such a foul should have been called in that situation is arguable and will continue to be as it fades into the background of Ole Miss lore.

In the end, though, the game simply stands as another missed opportunity in a line of missed opportunities over the last few weeks. Ole Miss, having lost four of its last five, turns to Selection Sunday squarely on the bubble, if not on the wrong side of it.

“I really don’t feel like we’ve done enough, but if we do make it, I feel like we backed our way in,” White, who led Ole Miss with 17 points, said. “I just wanted to win a couple games in this tournament so we’d definitely be in the NCAA tournament.”

Fortunately for Ole Miss, other bubble teams had a bad day, as well. Texas A&M, Texas, Illinois, Old Dominion and Miami (Fla.) – to name a few – all lost, which might very well help the Rebels’ cause.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi still has Ole Miss in despite the loss.

“We’ve taken destiny out of our own hands,” Kennedy said. “Now we just have to wait and see what the other teams that are in the equation have done.”

Ole Miss entered the game ranked No. 51 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA and with the 28th strength of schedule according to ESPN. With the loss, has the Rebels with an RPI of 56.

“Ole Miss better be in that tournament, and not only be in it, they better be in it with a good seed,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, whose team improved 17-15 overall, said.

“They deserve to be in that tournament. And they’re a team that will have success in that tournament.”

But again, the decision is out of the Rebels’ hands, their control taken away by a referee and a play White won’t soon forget.

“No one feels worse than Snoop does,” Kennedy said. “The reality is this is a game of inches. We’ve lived on the good side of that a few times this year. Tonight, unfortunately, we have to live on the bad side.”

The only side(s) that matters now is that of the bubble. And where Ole Miss falls is anyone’s guess.

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