But not before a little more drama.
Ole Miss outlasted Troy in overtime for an 83-80 win to move to 10-2 on the season and close out out-of-conference play. The Rebels have now won seven games in a row, and they’ll return to action at Kentucky Jan. 2.
“At the end of the day they don’t say how, they say how many,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “We’ll take our seventh in a row. I’m just glad we were able to close out Tad on a right note.”
Over 9,000 fans showed up to say goodbye to the arena that opened in 1966 and housed 700 Rebel basketball games, including 490 wins and a 125-31 record (.801 percent) under Kennedy. Ole Miss will open the state-of-the-art Pavilion at Ole Miss Jan. 7 with a capacity of 9,500 within an intimate seating bowl.
“I’ll miss the fact that we’ve won 80 percent of our games in here,” Kennedy said. “I will miss that. I hope that transfers over; that’s not a bad number. We have made fun of the building for obvious reasons. It’s easy to poke fun. But it has been a good home to Rebel basketball over the years. There are a lot of great moments that have come through this building, a lot of emotions spent, a lot of stress for (me) the last 10 years.
“It’s hard for me to believe that the dream is now a reality. We’re really excited about taking the next step as a program.”
Ole Miss was led Tuesday by Stefan Moody and Tomasz Gielo, who tied for the team lead with 23 points apiece. Gielo was 9 of 18 from the floor and 5 of 11 from 3, and he finished second on the team with six rebounds.
Moody, who entered the game ranked first in the SEC and seventh nationally with 23.8 points per game, scored at least 20 points for the seventh-straight game. He also contributed seven assists and six steals, while Martavoius Newby had 10 points and six rebounds. Sebastian Saiz, playing with special goggles due to an eye injury suffered at Memphis over the weekend, had 11 points and a team-leading eight rebounds.
“The crowd was great today,” Gielo said. “They were loud and trying to support us. I really appreciated it. Our whole team does. For me, it feels special because I’ll leave this place undefeated. I only played here like five games, but it still feels good. One day when I’m old, I can tell my grandchildren I was undefeated in the Tad Pad. Definitely feels good.”
Ole Miss made 30 of 71 shots (42.3 percent) for the game and 8 of 29 from 3 (27.6 percent). The Rebels and Troy each grabbed 40 team rebounds. Ole Miss made 15 of 20 free throws to 12 of 17 for the Trojans.
The Pavilion at Ole Miss was the centerpiece of the Forward Together campaign. The $95 million facility will included a number of first-class amenities, from a private student concourse to courtside and baseline seating for students, three premium club areas for fans and over 1,700 premium seats.
“Everybody likes new things,” Kennedy said. “When we walked into the FedEx Forum (to play Memphis), you just get a feeling of pride. It puts a little pep in your step because it’s a first-class facility. Ours obviously won’t be at that scale, but I think you’re going to get the same feel. When you come in, there’s going to be pride of ownership, which is really what I’ve always wanted.
“I’m really appreciative of the fans coming out today and giving us support, giving us energy without which I’m not sure we could’ve gotten to No. 10. My hope is that energy will carry over into the new place. For the first time, we’ve created a game-day experience that we’ve never been able to provide before in basketball. We have it in football, we have it in baseball, we have it in the other sports. But now we have it in basketball, and I know Rebel Nation is going to take ownership of that.”