ATLANTA - Finally, a close win for Ole Miss.
In an ending some would call controversial and others would call exciting, the Rebels upset South Carolina 53-52 in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament this afternoon at the GeorgiaDome.
The last three games for Ole Miss, all losses, had been by six points in overtime to this same South Carolina team only four days ago (76-70); by five to LSU (58-53); and to Mississippi State by three (71-68).
On the season the Rebels had lost seven games by six points or less beginning with a tough 70-68 loss at Arkansas State in December. The Rebels had only three wins within that same six-point margin - VCU on a last-second shot by Tommie Eddie 63-62; Georgia 59-54; and Tennessee 60-58.
Things were fairly even in the close-game department until the last three games of the regular season when "L" became the norm. That's why today brought smiles to the faces of players and coaches as they celebrated the dramatic victory.
But more importantly than all of that, the Rebels lived to play another day.
"This was a game that was similar to many we've had this season," said Ole Miss Coach Rod Barnes, whose team improved to 14-16 on the year. "I was happy with the fight that these kids have in them. I'm really happy with their effort today. Now we get to play again tomorrow, and that's important."
Here was the scenario at game's end. A South Carolina miss was rebounded by Tommie Eddie with 10 seconds to go and the Rebels leading 51-50. He got the basketball out to sophomore guard Todd Abernethy who was fouled by Brandon Wallace.
Todd made both free throws in the one-and-one situation with 7.6 seconds to go for a 53-50 UM lead.
The Gamecocks then raced up the court, and USC sophomore guard Tre' Kelley jumped up over Abernethy and shot a ball toward the basket which banked in, apparently for a 3-point goal that would tie the game at 53-53 with 1.7 seconds left.
Ole Miss, with no timeouts left, quickly threw the basketball inbounds toward halfcourt, but it was intercepted by Carolina's Carlos Powell who immediately called a timeout. There was 9/10 of a second left.
At that point, the officials took a lengthy look at the monitors on the scorers' table and finally made the determination that Kelley's foot was on the 3-point line; thus the shot counted two points and the Rebels still led 53-52.
On the first inbounds attempt by the Gamecocks at midcourt, Rebel guard Brandon Patterson tipped the ball away and it appeared time expired on a Rebel victory. But the officials put 6/10ths of a second on the clock. After the inbounds this time, Wallace then launched a 3-pointer as time expired, but the shot missed its mark.
South Carolina Coach Dave Odom said he was comfortable that the officials got things right.
"It's never a good feeling to see the referees converge on that monitor if you're the one being questioned," he said. "From my vantage point, I couldn't tell. Gerald Boudreaux, who I think is as fine an official as there is in college basketball, came over and said 'This is a hard one, but we've looked at it six times and there's no doubt in our mind he had his foot on the line.' Then he looked straight and me and said 'And when you see it, you'll know we're right,' I said 'Gerald, I believe you.' And that was the end of it."
Rod said the contest was a typical Ole Miss-South Carolina men's hoops matchup.
"It seems like every time we play South Carolina it's a tough, close, hard-fought game," Barnes said. "Coach (Odom) is one of my favorite coaches. I know it is a tough way to lose for them."
Abernethy said the dramatic shot, which appeared to be a 3-pointer but was eventually called a 2-pointer, wasn't something he had a good view of since he was doing the guarding.
"My initial reaction was that it was definitely a 3, and my heart just sank," Abernethy said. "Going back to the huddle, we all looked over and saw that they were looking at the replay and that there was a chance it was a two. So it was really big when we found out it was only a two."
The game obviously wasn't over quite yet, but it was going to take a buzzer-beating, somewhat miraculous shot for USC to win, which obviously didn't happen.
The officials said they felt confident with the way they handled things at the end.
"Specifically on that play (the shot), it was requested by Coach Barnes that we review the play," said lead crew official Boudreaux. "We obliged and he is permitted to do that. The replay was conclusive that he had a foot on the line. We looked at four different angles. Then we looked at it twice from all four angles. Realizing the impact of the play and the significance at the time of the game, we wanted to make sure the decision we made was corrrect, and it was substantiated on tape."
When Patterson knocked the ball out of bounds on the subsequent inbounds play, Boudreaux addressed that instance as well.
"We had a deflection on the play and the ball immediately went out of bounds," he said. "We went back to the monitor and picked up the time and reset the clock because time had expired. We put 6/10ths of a second on the clock. Again we used the monitor as allowed by rule."
After the dust had settled and the outcome decided, it was apparent that some Rebels had stepped up big in this one. Rebel leading scorer in the game Tommie Eddie, with 17 points today, only had three in Sunday's loss in Columbia.
"I just took my time and let the game come to me today," said Eddie, the Rebels' leading scorer on the season. "The guards did a good job getting the ball in to me. There was a lot of pushing and a lot of banging out there today. It was fun though."
Eddie said he was worried his Ole Miss career might be over - then came the changed call that prevented a second overtime with USC in five days.
"I saw that his foot was on the line," he said. "He had to lean in because Todd already had his hands in the air. When he leaned in, he was on the line. This was a good win for us. We finally got a close one."
The Rebels led 26-24 at halftime. After USC went up 38-36 on a Renaldo Balkman layup with 10 minutes left in the game, Ole Miss went on a 9-0 run to lead 45-38 with 7:28 to go. The Gamecocks closed the gap to 51-50 with two minutes left but never led the last 10 minutes of the game.
One of the keys to the game today was the fact that both Abernethy and senior guard Ed Glass were able to penetrate for some baskets which helped the Rebels both inside and out.
"When we were doing the scouting report, the coaches told us to drive more," Abernethy said. "One of the things is our size. Ed and I are pretty big point guards. So I think we used our strength to our advantage. The helpside wasn't there as much as some of the other teams. That opened up a lot of things for us."
Glass stepped up big once again for the Rebels. Lately he has seen the floor more, and against the Gamecocks Sunday he scored 11 points with six rebounds and four assists. In the win today, Ed scored 15 points with five rebounds and an assist in 31 minutes.
"I just give credit to my coaching staff and my teammates for continuing to believe in me," Glass said. "We've said all year we want to finish strong. That's been tough for us at times, but today we finished strong again and just gave it all we've got. I just want to end my career at Ole Miss leaving it all out there on the floor."
Odom said the Gamecocks, now 15-13, weren't at their best today.
"We just could not get into a rhythm early on," he said. "They were able to do that. We gave up some easy transition baskets, especially in the first half. You can't do that against a team like Ole Miss, who, like us, sometimes struggles for points. We also got three or four charges which tells you we were playing out of control. We had a shot to win it, but it was not to be.
"It was a difficult loss for our team but a good win for Rod Barnes and Ole Miss," Odom continued. "It's been a good week for him. I congratulated him on his contract. It's very deserved. He's one of the real gentlemen in our profession and a really fine coach."
The Rebels now face SEC Western top seed Alabama, 23-6 on the season, at noon Friday.
"We've played them twice, and I believe we'll be confident going into the game tomorrow," Abernethy said. "We played well in the game in Oxford and came up short at the end. We have nothing to lose. We'll just go out and have fun and hopefully shock some people."
Rebs win in dramatic fashion over USC
OM Spirit Top Stories
AP: LSU 38, Ole Miss 21BATON ROUGE, La. -- Leonard Fournette broke LSU's single-game rushing record on just his first eight carries -- scoring three touchdowns of 59 yards or more -- and the 25th-ranked…
OM SpiritYesterday at 10:57 PM
Instant Reaction: Ole Miss - LSUBATON ROUGE, La. - Ole Miss Spirit staffers give their instant reactions from the Rebels' 38-21 loss at LSU Saturday night.
OM SpiritYesterday at 10:48 PM
From the Locker Room: LSUBATON ROUGE, La. - Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and defensive end Marquis Haynes met the media following the Rebels' 38-21 loss at LSU Saturday night.
OM SpiritYesterday at 10:44 PM
A Hard LookBATON ROUGE, La. - Hugh Freeze praised LSU for their play Saturday night in Death Valley as they emerged with a 38-21 win over his Ole Miss, but once he got over the formality of…
OM SpiritYesterday at 10:33 PM
Freeze: "We Gotta Look at Ourselves Hard"Baton Rouge, La. - Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels fell short in all facets of the game in the second half against LSU. Ole Miss failed to score in the second half…
OM SpiritYesterday at 10:08 PM