Rebels get big win over Gators

Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy mentioned this week he wanted to get Trevor Gaskins into games earlier. He did just that in the Rebels' 89-87 win over Florida. Good thing, too.

The freshman guard had the game of his young college career with 19 points in 23 minutes, entering the contest at the 15:55 mark of the first half with his team down 11-9.

Gaskins had only four points in the first half, and those came late. But his two baskets were back to back and were key in expanding the Ole Miss lead to 43-28. Florida got the final six points of the first half to trail 43-34 at the break.

In the second half, Gaskins scored 15 and was a factor in other statistical areas to help the Rebels' cause.

Gator Coach Billy Donovan said Gaskins was the key for 15th-ranked Ole Miss in this one.

"Trevor Gaskins was the difference in the game," he said, his team now 15-3 on the season and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play. "He was the guy that expanded the lead for them when they had to have it."

Kennedy said he was pleased with Gaskins' play.

"Trevor was huge for us and we needed that tonight," he said after his team improved to 15-1 and 2-1. "He stepped up big for us offensively. Not only the number of shots but the timing of those shots was huge."

Gaskins said it was all in a night's work. But he was glad to get in the game earlier and contribute.

"I'm a little surprised," he said of his 6-of-9 performance from the floor including 3-of-5 from 3-point range and also 4-of-6 from the free throw line. "It wasn't my best game. I just tried to help my team out by hitting open shots."

A Gaskins trey from the left corner gave Ole Miss a 54-41 lead with 14:18 to go in the game. He then gave the Rebels their largest lead of the game at 59-43 with another 3-pointer a couple of minutes later.

When the Gators got as close as they had since the first half at 64-60, another 3-pointer by Gaskins stretched the lead to seven and gave the team and crowd of 9,304 (5th largest in Ole Miss home hoops history) a much-needed lift with 8:11 left.

For much of the remainder of the game, the Rebs were able to get the ball inside to the big men and either score or get fouled. A Dwayne Curtis reverse layup underneath pushed the Rebel lead out to 77-66 with just over four minutes to go. A Kenny Williams jumper made it 83-74 Ole Miss with a minute and a half remaining.

But Florida wasn't through. When Chandler Parsons scored on a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left, the Gators were down only 84-82.

Curtis was fouled with 25 seconds to go and made both free throws for an 86-82 UM advantage. After a Florida turnover, Eniel Polynice was fouled and made two free throws for an 88-82 lead with 16 seconds to go.

But Nick Calathes nailed a 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining to make it 88-85. Gaskins then made one foul shot and missed the second after Parsons fouled him for an 89-85 UM lead. Jai Lucas scored on jumper with 1.7 seconds to go to make it 89-87.

Lucas then fouled Polynice in the backcourt, and the sophomore missed both free throws that would have iced it. Calathes got the rebound off the second one and heaved it toward the other goal. The ball hit the top of the backboard, bounced up and hit the shot clock, but came down and missed. A game official had already waved the shot off after it hit the top of the shot clock, thus ending the game.

Kennedy also mentioned free throws were a near killer for the Rebels. His team missed 11 on the night, all in the second half and many down the stretch.

"We've hurt ourselves at the foul line all season, and it continues to be a problem," he said with some disgust.

Then he pointed out a positive.

"We missed 11 free throws and a bunch of 1 and 1s and still beat a good team," he said. "That's the sign of a team that's got a chance."

Ole Miss was led in scoring by Curtis with 20. In addition to Gaskins' 19, Polynice had 14.

For Florida, Dan Werner and Calathes each had 16, while Parsons had 15 and Walter Hodge had 13.

Ole Miss shot 54 percent while Florida shot 46 percent. From 3-point range the Rebels were 7-of-20 and the Gators 9-of-32. From the free throw line Ole Miss was 16-of-27 and Florida 10-of-19.

"We shot 28 percent from the 3-point line and missed nine free throws and still only lost by two," said Donovan, as Kennedy was earlier, looking for the positives in this one. "I think it's something we can build on."

So with both coaches feeling basically the same way - one on the winning side and one on the losing side - Ole Miss heads to Auburn for a 4 p.m. (CT) game Saturday, while the Gators host Kentucky Saturday at 8 p.m. (CT).

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