Entering the final game of the season, Ole Miss wanted to leave a shining light on their already great, but unexpected, tournament resume. Although the Rebels had lost two of their last three games, they hoped to end the season with a win against Vanderbilt.
However, the Commodores had other ideas.
Coming into the night on their own four game winning streak, Vanderbilt was shooting 49.4 percent from behind the arc in those games.
Against the Rebels Saturday night, the Commodores went a stellar 13-23 from the three point line, and 30-55 from the field.
“They put on a clinic,” said Ole Miss Head Coach Andy Kennedy. “They’re as good a shooting team as we have faced in maybe my nine years here.”
Ole Miss was surely a lock in the NCAA Tournament going into this final game of the season, a place no one expected them to be at the beginning of the year, especially after losing their opener to Charleston Southern.
Earlier in the day Saturday, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who correctly predicted 67 of the 68 teams in last year’s NCAA tournament bracket, had Ole Miss listed as a ninth-seed team. Ole Miss was considered by many to be a shoe-in to the big dance, but after a tough loss to Vanderbilt, they are slowly inching closer to the drama-filled bubble.
“We’ve never been mentioned as a bubble team by one person, nor were we mentioned at the start of the season by one person as a NCAA Tournament team,” said Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy rather emphatically. “Not one. Not one in this room, not one in the nation, that the Ole Miss Rebels could be a NCAA tournament team. Not. One.”
The Rebels had five senior players in their final game in Tad Smith Coliseum last night. Seniors Aaron Jones, M.J. Rhett, LaDarius “Snoop” White, Terence Smith, and Jarvis Summers all started the game.
Summers registered 16 points and four assists on the night, while Rhett led the Rebels with 18 points and went an outstanding eight for nine from the field.
On the flip side, Vanderbilt went off big time from the three point line, hitting 13 of their 23 shots beyond the arc. The Commodores were led by Riley LaChance who scored 19 points and went five for nine from three.
Although Vanderbilt hit a majority of the shots they tossed towards the rim, timing is what really hurt the Ole Miss. Whenever the Rebels gained any momentum against the Commodores, Vanderbilt would easily hit another three.
“Basketball is a game of rhythm,” explained Coach Kennedy. “You have to disrupt theirs and establish yours. We did neither.”
At the end of the day, this was a bad match up for Ole Miss. The Rebels have played a lot of zone defenses this year, and the way teams have beat Ole Miss, is by hitting jump shots and passing the ball. Vanderbilt did both extraordinarily well. The Commodores had 25 assists on 30 made shots. By the time the Rebels switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense, the damage had been done.
“We let them do what they wanted to do offensively,” said Forward M.J. Rhett. “We should be more in passing lanes and we should stop letting everyone just catch and pass.”
Ole Miss is thankful they will no longer have to play in the Tad Pad anymore this season. The Rebels are 9-7 on the season in the building and have only shot above 45 percent in the coliseum three times this season. On the season, Ole Miss is 20-11, with a majority of their losses at home.
“We haven’t been very good in this building,” said Coach Kennedy of Tad Smith Coliseum. “What we shoot in this building in our losses is staggering.”
Ole Miss could have been a three-seed in the SEC tournament with a win, and would of received a second-round bye. But with the loss to Vanderbilt, the Rebels drop all the way to a six seed and will have to play an extra game.
“We finished third, but based on tiebreakers we’ll be sixth,” said Kennedy of the SEC Tournament seeding. “Ultimately, I’m a big believer of you get what you deserve.”
Ole Miss will be back in action on Thursday, March 12, 2015 in the SEC Tournament. The game will be on the SEC Network and start “around” 8:15 pm. Start time is technically twenty five minutes after the 6:00 pm game and it is not known for sure when that game will end.
The Rebels will face the winner of the South Carolina and Missouri game.