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Saturday, March 10, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Vanderbilt 65, Ole Miss 53

By David Helman


NEW ORLEANS -- A few quick thoughts from Vanderbilt's 65-53 win against Ole Miss.

Overview: Ole Miss entered the semifinals with the same strategy that got them there. The Rebels played relentless defense against the talented Vanderbilt shooters, and they battled down low to draw 23 trips to the foul line.

It worked at the start. Vanderbilt had another disappointing day offensively after struggling with Georgia. The Rebels held the 'Dores to a mediocre 10-of-30 shooting in the first half. The game didn't actually see a basket for the opening three minutes, and Ole Miss trailed by just two at halftime. It was definitely a departure from the breakneck shooting spree that Kentucky and Florida played on the same floor.

When push came to shove, the Commodores talent shined through, just as it did against Georgia. Vandy upped its shooting to 50 percent after the break, and John Jenkins carried a subpar performance from his fellow starters.

Turning point: Ole Miss began flirting with disaster toward the middle of the second half. The Rebels allowed the lead to creep as large as seven and eight before bringing it within five. Leading 49-44 with 7:28 to play, the Vandy shooters showed up when they needed to. In a span of 90 seconds, Brad Tinsley hit a trey, followed by a Kedren Johnson jumper. Tinsley answered that with another 3 to complete an 8-0 run, and the Rebels were done.

Key player: Jenkins led the way with some help from Tinsley, just like Friday night. In the midst of another bad day by Jeffery Taylor, Jenkins threw up 23 points. He made 5-of-13 3s.

Key stat: Festus Ezeli, who made life so difficult on Georgia, was a total no-show. He got into foul trouble and managed no points in just 16 minutes.

The Rebels earned 23 free throws, but they didn't do enough with them. They only connected on 16, which wasn't going to cut it against Vandy's offense.

Miscellaneous: Lance Goulbourne replaced Ezeli's lost production in the post. The senior posted a quiet double-double of 10 and 12.

What's next: Vanderbilt earns a date for the SEC tournament championship Sunday against Kentucky. Ole Miss, which was likely playing for its postseason life after a surprising run to the semis, goes home and hopes for good news.