Summers made just one of his four free throws Tuesday night against BYU, but the lone success was ultimately all that mattered. It clinched a wild 94-90 Rebel win in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the 62nd point for Ole Miss in a historic second half that will be talked about for years to come.
Ole Miss’ 62 points are the most points scored in the second half of an NCAA game since 2007.
“I’m going to go down with a fight,” Summers would say afterwards. “I’m going to keep shooting. If I’m missing, I’m still going to shoot.”
He could have folded.
He was 1 of 11 in the first half as Ole Miss fell behind by 17 points. His second half wasn’t much better (4-10), but he finished compensated by impacting the game in other ways. He notched his second career double-double with a season-high 10 assists compared to just one turnover, and he also grabbed five rebounds.
But the NCAA tournament is a chance for redemption. Legends are made in March, the ordinary made extraordinary.
Summers stood defiant, ball tucked tightly to his right hip. Not even three seconds remaining and one of the best offenses in the country, BYU, set for another opportunity to keep its season alive.
He took a deep breath and shot.
“He’s had the yips like I’ve never seen this year,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “God bless him, we've tried everything short of an exorcism. We're going to try to put him in a position to make plays. The thing that I'm most proud of is he still led us.”
Summers gestured towards his teammates as if to say he had it the whole time. But this season, his last at Ole Miss, has been anything but a sure thing – at least on the offensive end.
He’s shooting 33 percent from the floor. His 12.4 scoring average is a significant step down from his 17.3 a year ago. He scored single-digit points in 14 games.
However, Summers isn’t one to quit. Few players have accomplished more in their career. Summers is the ninth player in Ole Miss history to reach 80 wins. He's just the fourth player in SEC history to post 1,600 career points and 500 career assists. And he's done it mostly through sheer determination, a former unheralded recruit whose only other high-major offer was from Murray State.
“Just got to come out and fight,” Summers said.
“I told him I’m going to ride with him,” Kennedy said. “He’s my senior. He and I have been through a lot of battles. He’s one of my favorite players. Great kid who I know is going to come in focused and ready to play.”
Ole Miss (21-12) is off to Jacksonville, Fla., for the second round. The No. 11 seed Rebels will face No. 6 Xavier Thursday afternoon.
Since the NCAA expanded to 68 teams in 2011, with the addition of the First Four games, at least one First Four team won multiple games each year, with No. 11 seed Tennessee reaching the Sweet 16 in 2014.
The Rebels, resilient as they are, are in pursuit of a similar run. And they have their senior guard, Summers, to guide them. Follow the smile.
Don’t worry, guys, he’s got this.
“We’ve got to build off it,” Summers said. “Go to Jacksonville and do what we’ve got to do to win.”
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