The Rebels, losers at home Saturday 80-75 to arch-rival Mississippi State, won at Georgia 80-76 Wednesday night. Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy had stopped just short of calling it a must win. But he's pleased the Rebels move on with an important victory.
"I was really proud of our effort, especially in the second half," said Kennedy after his team improved to 13-3 on the season and 1-1 in SEC play. "It's very difficult to win on the road. Georgia had won seven straight at home. We knew it would be a battle."
The Rebels trailed 43-42 at halftime but scored the first six points of the second half on a jumper by Murphy Holloway and two baskets by Terrico White. Ole Miss led much of the rest of the way and was ahead 78-76 with 14 seconds to go, throwing the basketball in under the Rebels' own goal.
Eniel Polynice looked out onto the court, saw Georgia star Trey Thompkins had his back to him, and Polynice inbounded the ball – to himself. With only five seconds left on the shot clock, Polynice bounced it off Thompkins' back, stepped in bounds, and laid the ball in the basket to give Ole Miss a four-point lead with 11 seconds left.
Georgia was unable to capitalize on its last possession, and the Rebels left Athens victorious.
"How about that?" Kennedy said. "We talk about a lot of different scenarios, but I'm not sure we've brought that one up yet. My staff saw it. They could see Thompkins was a little bit confused, because we were small. As he looked at the inbounder, he saw a guard and he said this can't be my matchup. He was literally in no-man's land. So he took the path of least resistance and doubled the guy closest to the ball. EP not only had the guts to do it, but he had the where-with-all to get the carom. For it to come off his back and for him to get it and then to finish the play obviously sealed the game."
"I give props to all the coaches," said Polynice, who had 10 points in the contest. "They told me with the double-team coming up to hit it off his back and try to make a play. That's exactly what I did."
Polynice said several things had to go just right for it to work, and he credited his coaches again.
"Coach (Owen) Miller told me to thrown it off his back. Coach (Torrey) Ward and Coach (Michael) White are always telling me to pump fake and get the defender in the air. Last but not least, Coach Kennedy always tells me to finish the play. All the coaches led me to executing this play, and all I did was what I was told."
Ole Miss shot 48 percent from the floor (28-58), while Georgia shot 41 percent (24-50). The Rebels were 8-18 (44 percent) from 3-point range, and the Bulldogs were 5-14 (35 percent) from beyond the arc. Ole Miss was 16-26 (62 percent) from the free throw line, and Georgia was 23-34 (68 percent).
The Bulldogs jumped out on the Rebels 5-0 early and led by as many as six points (19-13) before Chris Warren tied the game 30-30. He later gave Ole Miss its first lead at 41-40 with 1:41 to go before halftime.
Even with the fast start, first-year Georgia head coach Mark Fox said his team wasn't at its best. His team had fallen short at Kentucky 86-78 Saturday.
"It was a hard fought game", Fox said. "I thought we had an emotional hangover from the Kentucky game. I really felt that we were dealing with emotional fatigue for the early part of the ballgame. We got some energy back and made it a battle but you have to give Ole Miss credit because we had a terrible time guarding them."
Warren led Ole Miss in scoring with 12 points, all of them coming in the first half. Georgians Zach Graham and Trevor Gaskins had 11 points apiece.
The Bulldogs were led by Thompkins with 21 points.
Ole Miss took care of the basketball with just eight turnovers, while homestanding Georgia had 13.
The taller Bulldogs had the better of it on the boards 41-34.
A season-high home crowd for Georgia of 6,743 watched.
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