Terrico White isn't much of a talker. On those rare occasions when he actually shows emotion, his words or movements are usually discreet.
Well, even though he barely opened his mouth, White spoke loudly Friday. The sophomore guard, plagued by inconsistency all season, sparked a 90-81 win over Memphis in front of a lively crowd of 8,218 inside Tad Smith Coliseum.
With the win, Ole Miss (23-10) advances to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament and will play Saturday's winner between Texas Tech and Jacksonville Tuesday night at either 6 p.m. or 8 p.m.
"Terrico, when he's aggressive, he's a handful because of his size and strength," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.
"This game was really big for me," White added. "It was my hometown team, so I wanted to come out and play good. I did that."
It was the second of consecutive impressive games for White, including a 27-point effort against Troy in the first round. However, this one obviously carried a little more weight for the 6-foot-5, 213-pounder. He finished 6-of-11 from the field, and was 3-of-4 in 3-point attempts.
But White remained mum in postgame interviews on the significance of beating Memphis. Leave it to junior Zach Graham, who added 19 points, to share a snippet of insight.
"By the way he played, (the win) probably meant a lot to him," he said. "He played good."
Ole Miss and Memphis (24-10) went back and forth in a spirited first half. The game was tied four times in the game's opening minutes. However, consecutive Memphis buckets gave the Tigers a 15-13 lead with 11:37 showing early.
White, who had 10 points in the period, capped a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer for a 20-15 Ole Miss advantage. Memphis quickly tied it up, though, as Will Coleman was good on a layup and Wesley Witherspoon dialed long distance.
After Terrance Henry brought the crowd to its feet on a dunk following a Murphy Holloway miss, Ole Miss was able to build a little cushion. Trevor Gaskins connected on back-to-back 3s and Chris Warren hit another. Ole Miss was out in front, 36-28.
Memphis pulled closer as the half drew to a close, but Ole Miss held firm, 37-33, as the buzzer sounded for intermission.
Ole Miss opened the second half with a 14-6 run, punctuated by another White 3-pointer, for a 50-39 lead. But Memphis refused to go away, as the Tigers reeled off eight-straight points to pull within three.
Graham silenced the push with a jumper, while Warren and Holloway followed with baskets. Henry added a tip-in of a Holloway miss, before one of two thunderous alley-oop dunks sent Ole Miss fans into a frenzy.
White dribbled downcourt and found a flying Holloway in the air. The sophomore forward, with his head well above the rim, used two hands to throw it down. Ole Miss was up 61-51. White followed with an acrobatic, one-handed jam of his own minutes later.
"Certainly the emotion was in the building," Kennedy said. "We got some energy off the crowd. The teams were going at each other back and forth. When you get crowds such as that, it allows you to sustain it just based on getting energy from someone other than yourself."
The Rebels maintained their double-digit advantage for most of the period, including an 83-73 showing after two made free throws by Graham. But Angel Garcia, his 17 points to lead Memphis, nailed a 3-pointer and the Tigers were within seven.
Almost fittingly, Ole Miss was forced to make its free throws down the stretch to seal it. The Rebels were 7-of-8 in the closing seconds, before the subs entered with the final score all but a formality.
Ole Miss was 70 percent (26-of-37) from the charity stripe for the game.
"We're a pretty good basketball team. We're one or two bounces away from being in that other tournament," Kennedy said. "I think, offensively, we did a very good job of attacking for 40 minutes. I thought it was a very high-level game between two teams who were giving great effort."
Ole Miss shot 50 percent (28-of-56), compared to 46 percent (29-of-63) for Memphis. The Rebels also held the edge in rebounding, 38-35.
Warren finished with 16 points and seven assists. Holloway chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Gaskins added 10 points. He was also perfect in his only two 3-point attempts.
Will Coleman scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Witherspoon had 13 points and five boards.
"This was a really fun basketball game," Memphis head coach Josh Pastner said. "(Ole Miss) has a really good basketball team and they're going to be really good next year, too. It was a really high-level game. I'm very proud of our team. It was so important this year to stabilize the program. I felt the players did that this year. I'm so proud."
Reginald Buckner, another Memphis native, had three blocks in the win and tied the school record (56) for blocks held by David Dean. As a team, the Rebels tied the school record for most made 3-pointers in a season (273).
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