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Friday, March 9, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Ole Miss 77, Tennessee 72

By David Helman

NEW ORLEANS -- Some quick musings from Ole Miss' thrilling 77-72 overtime win against Tennessee.

Overview: Truth be told, this was probably the least-hyped of the four quarterfinals. But it turned out to be a lot of fun. It was a game both teams needed to have to keep their iffy bubble hopes alive. Both the Vols and the Rebels entered the night riding four-game winning streaks, and dodging No. 1 Kentucky in the semifinals would give the winner a decent shot at making the tournament championship game.

With all of that riding on the line, the pair played each other to a standstill. They went into the locker room tied at 28, and the lead never got larger than six in either squad's favor during regulation.

After trailing for most of the second half, Tennessee found themselves down, 61-58, with 26 seconds remaining. Trae Golden took Tennessee down the floor and dished off to Skylar McBee at the left side of the arc, and McBee banked in from distance to send the game to overtime.

The trey was only Tennessee's 15th field goal. The Volunteers had a horrendously bad shooting night (28 percent)

Turning point: The Rebels weren't discouraged by McBee's heroics. They took control right off the bat in the extra period, showing an offensive consistency that eluded both teams for most of the night. Tennessee scored the first points of overtime, but Ole Miss responded by scoring on five straight trips down the floor to take a seven point lead.

McBee did his best to keep Tennessee in it with two more 3s in overtime. Thanks to a pair of missed free throws by Ladarius White, the Volunteers were able to cut it as close as 74-72 in the final minute. Terrance Henry saved the day for the Rebels by going 3-of-4 from the stripe in the final 14 seconds.

Key player: Henry did more than just sink clutch free throws. He led the Rebs in scoring (19 points) and added seven boards in a healthy 38 of 45 minutes. He made 1o of his 12 free throws to lead Ole Miss from the line. And he managed all of that despite playing a big chunk of the game in foul trouble.

Key stat: Much like Florida in the Gators' earlier quarterfinal, the Volunteers used the deep ball to offset their awful shooting. Tennessee went 11-of-34 from the 3-point line, highlighted obviously by McBee's last gasp bank shot. Ole Miss only managed 2-of-4 from long range. The Volunteers also took a ridiculous 33 free throws and hit on 25 of them.

Miscellaneous: Nick Williams couldn't follow up on his monstrous 22-point performance against Auburn. If his barrage of 3-pointers against the Tigers was a feast, Friday night was a famine. Williams shot 2-of-11 and scored just five points.

What's next: Ole Miss goes back to its hotel and waits to see who it will face between Georgia and Vanderbilt. Tennessee goes back to Knoxville and waits to learn of its postseason fate.