No Moral Victory

Despite leading most of the game, Ole Miss fell to LSU 73-66 Saturday in Baton Rouge. Read about it inside.

They almost pulled it off.

The best team the Southeastern Conference has to offer almost fell, in fact, should have fallen, if not for some late-game heroics.

You can't fault the Rebels' effort in this one. It was certainly not the 30-point blowout we'd seen just a few weeks prior.

LSU (21-4, 9-1) is full of veterans, with the likes of Tasmin Mitchell, Garrett Temple and Marcus Thornton leading the charge. Considering most of Ole Miss' top scorers are freshmen and sophomores, we can understand why the final score was 73-66.

If only it were that simple.

"We had a chance," said head coach Andy Kennedy. "(LSU) stepped up at the end with their upper-classmen. I told our guys in the locker room, when you shoot 38 percent in the second half, you're not going to beat the best team in our conference."

But they should have.

When the game began, the Tigers came out rolling. The difference from the last meeting, however, was the Rebels were running too.

While LSU jumped ahead 26-18, Ole Miss (13-11, 4-6) battled back. When Terrance Henry hit a three-pointer following one of Chris Johnson's six blocks on the night, one could sense these guys had confidence.

Heck, Henry was only 1-10 from long distance before then.

The Rebels had pulled the Tiger lead to within three, and they weren't stopping there. Will Bogan banked a three to make the score 26-24, then Zach Graham hit one of his own to give Ole Miss the lead at 27-26.

After LSU tied the score at 29 apiece, DeAundre Cranston grabbed an offensive rebound, setting up a layup for David Huertas for two more points – all with freshman star Terrico White on the bench.

Huertas would add four more to give the Rebs a six-point lead at 35-29 and sophomore Malcolm White poured in another, as the half came to a close.

Momentum, intensity, effectiveness, were all in the Rebels favor. The final outcome seemed almost predictable.

The second half started where the first left off. Both teams exchanged baskets, but an 11-2 run extended the Rebel lead to seven at 48-41.

They didn't stop there, putting up points at will, capped by a Zach to Terrico alley-oop before LSU was forced to call timeout.

By then, Ole Miss led 57-49. They were well in control, showing no signs of slowing down. But once the lead was stretched to 62-54, is when things turned sour.

Thornton poured in five and Chris Johnson knocked down a jumper. Mitchell would add two free throws, while Thornton and Johnson put in four more.

The score was 67-62 before the Rebels knew what hit them.

Until Murphy Holloway scored a bucket at the 1:57 mark, Ole Miss hadn't hit a field goal in over seven minutes. Johnson scored again and Terrico missed a three.

Sure Murphy (who had a tremendous game) scored again, but by then, it was foul time. The Rebels couldn't pull off what they'd done at Mississippi State not long ago – secure a road victory they deserved to win.

As the clock struck zero, a 19-4 LSU run had just handed the Rebels their 11th loss of the season.

"I'm playing guys heavy minutes," Kennedy said. "I think fatigue was a factor. I was proud of our effort. We obviously made improvements since the last time we played them."

It's a tough loss nonetheless.

The game was a total team effort, with Huertas scoring 15 points, Terrico and Murphy both dropping in 13, and Malcolm White adding 10.

The guys were relentless on both ends, giving everything they had to pull this one out. It just wasn't meant to be.

Murphy had a double-double and continued his emergence one to watch for the future. David made tough shots throughout, despite being mauled every time he entered the lane. Terrance Henry is starting to make some noise.

It was a great effort for a team still searching 24 games in.

But it wasn't enough.

This team is past moral victories. They've proven capable of big wins when most had written them off.

They proved it again tonight, outrebounding the best team in that category 40-37. Twenty four second chance points aided in the effort, but again, they fell short.

Now it's time to move on. A two-game homestand is up next, with the Rebels' postseason chances riding on their outcome.

No moral victory is going to help in that mission.

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