Plenty to Celebrate

With a 69-47 win over Georgia Saturday, Ole Miss hits the road with realistic postseason aspirations. Read about it inside.

Add another win to the record books.

On the same day 19 All-Century members were recognized at halftime in celebration of 100 years of Rebel hoops, Ole Miss toppled Georgia 69-47 and firmly stamped their place into contention for postseason play.

"At shootaround today, I asked the guys to do something, not only for my benefit, but for the heritage of this program," said head coach Andy Kennedy. "Let's not ruin the celebration. This has been a great weekend and it's great to see a lot of those familiar faces back in this building.

"The culmination of the celebration, I wanted (the former players) to see their team, the team they have sweat equity, to go out and play well. So I challenged our guys and they met the challenge."

Taking both home contests against Tennessee and Georgia was pivotal in the Rebels' chances to play on after Tampa.

With the wins, Ole Miss sits 15-11 overall and 6-6 in SEC action. Faint optimism has turned to a realistic possibility, with the NIT well within reach and the NCAA Tournament still a possibility (albeit a small one).

A trip to Auburn is up next, but Kennedy and his squad have plenty to be confident about.

"We're still not (in the NCAA conversation) yet, but I think we've got an opportunity to play meaningful basketball as we approach the month of March," Kennedy said. "The games that you're playing, you want them to have meaning. I told our guys, what we've done is made this a four game season. We're back to ground zero.

"Now we can control our own fate with the last four games of the season," he added.

The game was all about hustle in the first half, especially with sloppy play to start. Ole Miss scored first following a tough layup from Zach Graham, who was aided by a bruising rebound from freshman Murphy Holloway.

But Terrance Woodbury answered on the other end with an easy layup, and connected again (this time wide open) to make the score 4-2.

Kennedy quickly called timeout to compose his team, leading to a 9-0 run, which extended the lead to 11-4. The Rebels displayed energy and emotion, with reserve Will Bogan scrambling for loose balls and big man Malcolm White contesting any shot in the paint.

However, Georgia (10-17, 1-11) continued with their fighting spirit, responding with four consecutive points from Dustin Ware. Play was physical and all could see this one might be tight throughout.

There were no easy baskets. Few fouls were called early, as physicality seemed the only chance for survival in this contest.

But Ole Miss adjusted.

Following the brief Bulldog spurt, Holloway grabbed a rebound, dishing to David Huertas, who nailed a three to make the score 17-11. After a turnover on the other end, Terrance Henry connected on a fading jumper for two more.

The game remained a battle, however, with both teams beating each other down with aggressive styles that would make Muhammad Ali proud.

If not for an obvious foul sending Woodbury to the floor, I'm not sure both squads would have combined for double digits hacks at halftime.

Apparently the referees got the memo, as three fouls were called over a two-minute period, helping Georgia pull within five at 20-15 with three minutes left in the first half. Ole Miss continued to push, as Terrico White scored a bucket to put the Rebs ahead by seven.

A jumper by Travis Leslie and three-pointer from Troy Brewer cut the lead to four at 22-18, until White added two and Holloway connected on a layup – plus the foul – for a nine point lead.

Brewer again scored a three with over 25 seconds left to end the scoring at the break, with the score 27-21 in favor of Ole Miss.

"We took Georgia too lightly," Terrico explained. "In film, we were joking around and not really paying attention to what they do. We took them for a joke. They came out and showed us they were serious.

"So we came out in the second half and put the game away."

That they did.

Ole Miss refused to give in and continued with their aggressive style, using a 13-0 run to push ahead 19 at 40-21 with 18 minutes left in regulation.

Malcolm was huge during the stretch, blocking three shots, including a brutal effort on 6-foot-11 Albert Jackson. The play sparked mass hysteria in the gym and was one of his career-high five on the day.

"I thought he was very, very active," Kennedy said of White's impressive performance. "His effort was outstanding on both ends of the floor."

"My key goal is to try and stay out of foul trouble and to be in the right position at the right time," White added. "I think I did well tonight. I was in the right positions and not fouling."

Huertas followed with two three-pointers of his own, helping the good guys claim an insurmountable lead. There would be no comeback, as the Rebels seemed poised for victory.

It didn't matter that Georgia scored three-straight points afterward. To answer, Graham scored on a pretty up-and-under.

Ole Miss was determined, controlling the action and countering anything the Bulldogs had to offer.

The teams exchanged baskets for most of the second, but there was never any worry of the outcome. Even when Woodbury made two free throws to pull his team within 12 at 42-30, the Rebs kept coming.

Holloway scored two and the bonus to give the Rebels a 47-30 lead with a little over 12 minutes to play. He followed on the other end with yet another rebound, leading to a two point layup for DeAundre Cranston. With timeout called on the floor, Ole Miss led 49-30.

The game was all but over.

"At the beginning of the year, I felt like we were a first half team," said Holloway, who recorded his third-consecutive double-double. "We wouldn't do too much in the second half. But it seems like now we've been playing better. The first three minutes of the second half are very important. We came out with a lot of energy and pulled away."

From that point, Holloway scored two more, along with Huertas and Terrico.

At 55-32, timeout was called by Georgia, but the damage was done. The fans showed their appreciation for a lively bunch of youngsters, yelling loudly for the group whose resiliency might finally be paying off.

And that was with just under seven minutes to play.

"I thought we really guarded, honestly," Kennedy said. "I don't think they had many clean looks. Woodbury got some at the end when the game was in the books, but I was really pleased. A lot of it was us blocking shots. Obviously when you're blocking shots, there's a pretty good likelihood of the ball not going in the basket.

"We were very active with seven blocks. I thought we did a tremendous job. Zach Graham should get consideration for the All-Defensive team. He did another good job today. Woodbury got some at the end, but Zach kept him out of rhythm."

As the horn sounded, the Rebels had just claimed another victory at home. The team now holds a record of 12-2 in Oxford, and is 44-5 in games played at Tad Smith Coliseum over the past three seasons.

Not bad for a squad who has no seniors among their scholarship players.

"I know there were people who didn't think we'd get to 6-6 with all the key players we've lost," Holloway said. "I'm just looking forward to trying to make it in March."

Terrico led Ole Miss in scoring with 19 points and four rebounds on the afternoon. Holloway added 12 and 10 rebounds of his own, while Huertas contributed 17 in the effort.

The Rebels shot 43.1 percent for the game, but lost the rebounding battle 43-42.

Georgia's 47 points were the fewest given up to an opponent since 2004, when Ole Miss defeated Arkansas 55-45.

The team returns to action at Auburn Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

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