The stretch of Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri was over. Smooth sailing to the finish line after that right? Not exactly. Ole Miss dropped a must-have game against Texas A&M 69-67 on Wednesday night. It was not a must-have in the sense of a resume builder as it was a resume killer.
It was the third loss by three points or less for Ole Miss this season and might have been the most painful. It appeared as though the Rebels had an outside chance at a comeback victory, before Andy Kennedy made a decision that is questionable in hindsight.
Kennedy called a timeout with nine seconds left and Ole Miss down two. The Rebels were four fouls short of sending the Aggies into the bonus and they needed fouls quickly. No matter how many free throws the Aggies made, Ole Miss would need a clutch shot and likely a three. In short, they needed Marshall Henderson. The Rebels still had a timeout remaining if they wanted to make any substitutions so the decision was easy right? Get the player you need to take the last shot out of the game until the next timeout and sub in a guard off the bench who had zero fouls, Derrick Millinghaus. Wrong.
Kennedy wanted to have Henderson on the floor if there was a steal to get the ball in his hands to win the game. Well, he never got the chance because he was forced to foul three straight times, giving him the disqualifying five for the game. After Elston Turner missed the front end of the 1-and-1, Kennedy called a timeout. Millinghaus ran the ball up the floor and took an off-balanced shot that took a clang off the rim that automated NIT-laden texts and tweets throughout the 662 and 601 area codes.
The rest of the game was as unspectacular as a mid-February SEC game tends to be. Henderson and Murphy Holloway struggled and were held to 10 points apiece. Jarvis Summers had just 2 points and 3 assists in 26 minutes. His replacement, Millinghaus, had his best game of the season by scoring 13 points in 14 minutes of play. Snoop White also had a solid game in limited duty, scoring 12 points in just 17 minutes.
A plus for Ole Miss is the game played by Buckner. It is a dream game for Rebels fans as he provided 13 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks. It is hard to ask anything else out of a power forward, especially after the emotional contest at Mizzou.
Turner was Texas A&M Wednesday night. The Washington-transfer outscored the rest of his team 37-32. The announcers set Rebel Twitters ablaze when they revealed that Turner’s father, a former Rebel basketball star, called Kennedy seeking a spot for his son on the team which the Ole Miss coach respectfully declined. That one might sting even more than the game management in the final minute. Imagine a starting five of Summers, Henderson, Turner, Holloway, and Buckner. Yeah, that close.
The two teams were pretty even across the board with A&M shooting better from the field (45.8 to 45.3), grabbing more rebounds (35 to 33), and tying the Rebels in turnovers with 12. It was the fact that the Aggies shot 50 percent from three and Ole Miss shot just 26.3 that was a dagger for Ole Miss.
Texas A&M (15-9, 5-6) will return to action on Saturday when they travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores at 5:30 CT from Memorial Gym.
Ole Miss (18-6, 7-4) is returning home for the first time in ten days to face the Georgia Bulldogs (12-12, 6-5). The Rebels will try to pick themselves up off the mat and make a run towards Nashville when they tipoff at 7 p.m. from Tad Smith Coliseum.