Ole Miss was hanging on for dear life after the Jaguars had all but erased a Rebel lead that was as much as 22 points earlier in the contest.
The Rebels were set to throw the basketball in with 1.5 seconds to go on the same end of the court as the Jags' second-half basket. On the throw in from David Huertas, Eniel Polynice was running toward the basketball as Huertas threw it in to him. But the ball rolled off Polynice and out of bounds. There was .4 seconds left, and USA had the ball again.
Enter Terrence Watson, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound, junior from Detroit, Mich., who is a self-described defensive specialist for the Rebels.
"We were subbing offense for defense, and I knew Coach was going to put me in," Watson said. "So I knew I'd be responsible for doing my job and that would be to not let them get it in. I told the guys not to worry, that I wasn't going to let him get it in. I was going to deflect it or something."
Watson put his long arms and jumping ability to good use. As the ball was thrown in, Watson reached up, tipped it, and caught it. The horn sounded. Ballgame.
The Rebels were 2-0 and all concerned, especially Polynice, breathed a sigh of relief.
"Eniel was like 'I'm glad you saved my butt.' But I was just doing my job," Watson said.
Watson, Polynice, and the rest of the Rebels try to move to 3-0 on the young season today at 7 p.m. when the Lamar Cardinals invade C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum.
Lamar opened its season Tuesday with a 103-64 win over LeTourneau University. The Cardinals, who were 15-17 last season, had six players in double figures Tuesday, led by a pair of former Northwest Mississippi Community College players. Senior guard Currye Todd paced the Cardinals with 17 points, while junior forward Justin Nabors notched a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The top returning scorer from last year's squad is Darren Hopkins, who scored 13.4 points per game a year ago, while Lamar Sanders scored 12.2 per game and had 9.8 rebounds per contest.
Head coach Steve Roccaforte is in his second year at the helm after serving as an assistant for three years under former coach and current athletic director Billy Tubbs.
The all-time series betwen the Rebels and Cardinals is tied 1-1, with each team having won on its home court. Ole Miss earned a 98-70 victory in Oxford in the first meeting on Dec. 4, 1993. Lamar won 86-81 on Dec. 9, 1995 in Beaumont, Texas.
The Cardinals currently have four players from the Magnolia State, including three from Northwest in Senatobia. Kenny Dawkins and Justin Nabors are from Holly Springs, Currye Todd hails from Byhalia and Lamar Sanders calls Hickory Flat home. Nabors, Todd and Sanders, three of the Cardinals' top players, all played for Lamar assistant coach Don Skelton, who served eight years as head coach of the Northwest Rangers. Skelton is also a former head boys basketball coach at Lafayette County High School in Oxford.
Watson and his teammates are ready for yet another tough battle. They are beginning to find and become comfortable in their roles. Watson has known what his was going to be all along.
"I've just got to go out and play my role. I'm a defender," Watson said. "Coach tells me to go out there and defend my butt off, and that's what I'm going to do. I just try to bring a lot of energy and do my job."
Watson, Rebel hoopsters host Lamar tonight
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