Senior guard Scottie Reynolds scored seven straight points to move his team out front 43-36 as Villanova moved on to a 79-67 win in the championship game of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff in San Juan.
Junior forward Antonio Pena got the game's next points to make it 45-36 in the Wildcats' favor. Rebel junior guard Eniel Polynice stopped the bleeding with his first points of the game on a layup to trim the VU advantage to only 45-38.
But the Rebels played catchup from then on, trailing by as many as 16 points at 69-53 when Pena scored on a layup with 2:43 left.
Ole Miss, which trailed 27-23 at halftime, got to within nine points on a couple of occasions, the last time at 73-64 on a slam dunk by Murphy Holloway with a minute and a half left.
The Rebels turned the basketball over 23 times in the game, but the Wildcats mishandled it 22. Villanova was better on the boards by a 51-36 count.
The Wildcats led 8-0 to start the game but Ole Miss took the lead at 14-12 on a steal and layup by Holloway. The UM lead was 17-12 on a Terrico White basket and free throw. But the Wildcats went back out in front at 23-20 on a layup and free throw by Pena.
After halftime the lead went back and forth for the first five minutes until Reynolds made his presence known. He finished as his team's top point producer with 21, while Chris Warren's 24 paced the Rebs.
"We had very poor execution in a number of areas," said Ole Miss had coach Andy Kennedy. "We typically don't turn it over. And they had trouble with that, too. Every team down here has turned it over an inordinate amount of times. Some of it was the pace of the game (vs. Villanova). You've got another level from a speed standpoint. What I thought Villanova made us do was play faster. As a result we played a little selfishly. Guys wanted to make plays at times that weren't there."
Kennedy said the effort was there from his players, however.
"I'm not faulting that at all," he said. "I thought the attention was right. The execution was where we failed ourselves."
Kennedy said VU's 24 second-chance points due to the rebounding totals were critical.
"It's a back breaker," he said. "You can't win when you turn it over 23 times, get out-rebounded by 15, and you miss nine free throws, you're not going to be successful at a high level. There are some things that got exposed tonight that are going to be great opportunities to grow from."
Ole Miss (4-1) beat Indiana 89-71 and Kansas State 86-74 in its earlier games in the tourney.
Pena added 17 points and 16 rebounds for the Wildcats (5-0), who are the favorites to win the Big East championship this season.
Villanova shot 41.5 percent and outscored Ole Miss 36-18 in the paint. The Rebels were just 12 of 21 (57.1 percent) from the foul line and shot 38.1 percent from the floor.
White added 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench for the Rebs, while Holloway finished with 10 points.
Ole Miss plays its next game Sunday in Oxford at 3 p.m. against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
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