Rebels can build on Kentucky game

There's a decent chance the second half of the Kentucky game was a program-turner, or at least a season-changer. If that's being a little dramatic, so be it. But you never know what that effort might do to the mindset of the team.

Of course I'm not saying there won't be losses. I'm not saying there won't be 30-point losses in the years to come.

But this team, and maybe this program, gained some confidence from the 58-54 setback in Lexington. It was the best the Rebels have played on the road - at least in the second half when they outscored the Wildcats 41-27 - since the SEC opener at Tennessee.

And they had a chance to win it. Had Chris Warren's layup gone in to tie, or Trevor Gaskins' trey made string music, then the Rebels just might have left there with a victory.

Personally I wish the hot-handed Warren had shot a 3-pointer instead of driving. But he might have missed and it wouldn't have mattered.

But he might have made it and the Rebels just might have won for only the second time ever in Rupp.

That we're even debating the final seconds is amazing. The Rebels were left for dead in the first half, trailing 27-4 at one point.

But they closed the gap before the end of the half, and 31-14 didn't seem as insurmountable, especially given the fact that they scored the first four points of the second half to trail by just 13. In 18 minutes teams can make up 13 points. And the Rebels almost did.

Warren was fouled on a layup and made the free throw shot to cap a 3-point play and pull Ole Miss to within four at 33-29. The Rebels had shown some desire not to be embarrassed in this one by doing that. Now within striking distance, could they go on and pull it off?

It didn't look like it down 53-43 with four minutes to go. Certainly there was enough time and 10 points can be made up quickly. But this game was in Rupp. Tough anywhere on the road; always tough there.

Warren is fouled and makes two free throws and it's 53-45. Dwayne Curtis steals a pass and dishes to Warren who misses a layup and unfortunately the first of two free throws, but makes the second; it's 53-46.

UK answers to make it 55-46, but it's the unflappable Warren who drains a trey with 2:16 left to cut the UK lead to 55-49 and force all those clad in big blue to hold their collective breath in concern.

After the Wildcats failed to score, a Kenny Williams jumper made it 55-51 with 1:18 to go, and this one was anybody's ballgame.

After Patrick Patterson made one and missed one at the free throw line for UK, Warren again nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 56-54 with 24.1 seconds left, and an amazing comeback for Ole Miss in the historic building was nearly complete.

But could it be? Could these Rebels, who have had so much trouble finding the magic of the early season for weeks now, dig down and pull off this headlining victory?

Ole Miss had been 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half. In the second half to this point the Rebels were 5-for-10. Maybe that's why I wanted Warren to take that last shot coming downcourt for the win. I felt like he would make it.

Ramel Bradley, his team leading 56-54, missed two free throws with 21.6 seconds to go. The Rebels had an opportunity few could have imagined an hour earlier.

Warren's drive and layup would have tied it. After his miss, the Rebels got the rebound, but Gaskins' 3-pointer missed.

Ah, the possibilities. It might have been the shot that propelled the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament, because who knows what it might have done to the team's psyche'? And this is a team that needed a positive boost if ever there was one.

All things considered, maybe it got one anyway.

With Alabama and Arkansas coming to Oxford the next two games, these Rebels deserve a full house to help them get to 20 wins. Only eight Ole Miss men's basketball teams have won 20 games or more in a season. This one can still do that - and more.

The second-half comeback at Kentucky, even with the loss, may have just helped them get there.

OM Spirit Top Stories