So Long, NYC

NEW YORK – Ole Miss' second trip to Madison Square Garden in the last three seasons ended in similar fashion. In a physical game, the Rebels fell, 68-63, to Dayton.

Murphy Holloway had a fitting description for the 2009-10 season after Ole Miss fell to Dayton, 68-63, inside Madison Square Garden Tuesday.

"It wasn't a great season, but it also wasn't horrible," he said.

Aptly stated. Head coach Andy Kennedy even chuckled in agreement.

Ole Miss (24-11) had its chances in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament, but finally succumbed to a motivated Dayton team. There was poor shot selection down the stretch, missed free throws and even a technical foul on freshman Reginald Buckner at the worst of times.

The Rebels trailed, 65-63, with just under 20 seconds left. But Trevor Gaskins, even with a clean look on a drive in the lane, missed a chip-shot layup to knot the score. Chris Johnson followed with three free throws to seal it for Dayton.

Trevor Gaskins

The play was allegoric, in a sense – at least to Kennedy.

"We didn't make plays," the fourth-year head coach said. "It's really been our (modus operandi) all season. It's never really been a lack of effort or a lack of competitive drive. It's really just been leaving a few plays on the floor, and tonight was another example of that."

Gaskins, noticeably disappointed postgame, knew he missed an opportunity.

"I was just attacking the rim, because I knew we had to get two points," Gaskins said. "I missed a wide-open layup. That's all it was."

Terrico White led three Rebels in double-digits with 19 points. Chris Warren followed with 15 points, while Holloway added 12 and seven rebounds.

"Offensively, we really struggled for rhythm, which is a credit to Dayton," Kennedy said. "They really pressured the ball."

Before the game, Kennedy billed Dayton as an up-tempo, frantic team. The Flyers played like it in the first half, as they jumped ahead quickly, 9-2.

But Ole Miss was able to withstand the early fury. Zach Graham and Gaskins, sandwiched between a free throw by Holloway, tied the score with a pair of 3-pointers. Terrance Henry followed with a jumper for the Rebels' first lead at 13-11.

Murphy Holloway

The teams went back-and-forth from there, but Ole Miss was able to build its largest advantage of the half on another 3-point make. Terrico White pulled up from the left corner, drained the trey, and Ole Miss led 17-13.

Dayton (24-12) stormed back with a 12-4 run, capped by Paul Williams' 3-pointer. Back-to-back floaters by White and Gaskins pulled the Rebels within one, 26-25, with 5:31 remaining until halftime. Gaskins finished the scoring on a steal at midcourt, followed by a layup.

Ole Miss trailed 34-30 at the break.

"This is a great opportunity, a great experience," Kennedy said. "Most of my guys have never been to New York or played in the Garden. We've been in here twice and haven't played very well. We haven't shot the ball good."

Dayton held a game-high 11-point lead, 45-34, early in the second half. Warren then responded with his two consecutive 3-pointers, followed by a Holloway layup, to leave the Rebs trailing by three.

White got Ole Miss as close as it would come in the frame. The Memphis, TN, native threw down a dunk at the 9:40 mark, bringing the score to 51-50. Rob Lowery answered on the next possession, though, with a 3-pointer to extend the Dayton lead.

Ole Miss trailed by four, 62-58, with upwards of three minutes left to play. White had connected on a tough jumper, plus the foul, moments earlier. He dribbled down the court with the intent to score.

His shot missed off the left iron, but Buckner grabbed the offensive rebound. Johnson, Dayton's leading scorer with 22 points, alertly tied him up for a jump ball. With both players fighting for possession, Buckner exerted an act of frustration and pushed Johnson.

He was immediately issued a technical foul.

"A technical foul always hurts you," Holloway said. "But Reggie, he was trying to get a loose ball. That's all we take it as, not a technical. We weren't down on him. We just kept playing."

Reggie Buckner

"I think Reggie pushed him," Kennedy added. "They were going for a loose ball and they pushed and things, something you hope they wouldn't do. It was in the heat of the moment. We had a good officiating crew. I trust their judgment."

Buckner was not made available to the media.

Both Ole Miss and Dayton shot 34 percent for the game, though Dayton held the rebounding edge, 45-38. The Rebels were 6-of-23 from 3-point range, good for 26 percent.

"We played an extremely physical, tough, well-coached team today in Mississippi," Dayton head coach Brian Gregory said. "Hats off to them. They had a great year and are only going to get better. And for us to figure out a way to pull that thing out at the end speaks volume for our guys."

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