The Ole Miss Rebels lost six of their final eight regular season games, so without a deep run in the SEC Tournament their fading chances to make the NCAA Tournament would be all but gone. A Thursday night matchup with in-state rival Mississippi State looked very favorable for the Rebels, but they trailed the Bulldogs 44-35 at halftime and 51-38 early in the second half before rallying for a 78-66 victory.
The backcourt duo of Marshall Henderson (21 points, three rebounds and one assist) and Jarvis Summers (21 points, six assists and four rebounds) led the way again for the Rebels, and they combined for 10 of the team’s 12 makes from beyond the arc in the game (7-for-19 for Henderson). The only other Ole Miss player to score in double figures was forward Anthony Perez, who had 10 points (2-for-4 on three-pointers) with five rebounds and two steals.
Craig Sword and Fred Thomas each had 16 points for Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs could not sustain their hot start as they went over nine minutes without a field goal on their way to scoring just 22 points in the second half.
Ole Miss will play Georgia on Friday night, and at first glance it looks like another favorable matchup for them against the SEC’s other Bulldogs. But Georgia won the lone regular season contest between the two teams, and with an 18-12 record (12-6 in conference play) they have an outside chance to earn a spot in the field of 68 with a strong showing in the conference tournament.
The Rebels needed to take care of business against their in-state rival Thursday night, and despite a slow start they were able to get a win. But I think they need a decisive win over Georgia, at least one more conference tournament victory and perhaps some help elsewhere to solidify a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Without any one of those criteria, it will be a tense Selection Sunday in Oxford.