The Rebels (19-7, 8-5 Southeastern Conference) led 62-56 with five minutes to go, but missed their last seven shots in a devastating loss for their NCAA tournament hopes. Ole Miss has lost five of its last seven games since starting the season 17-2.
South Carolina (13-13, 3-10 SEC), which began the night tied for last place in the SEC with Mississippi State, broke a six-game losing streak.
Ole Miss had two chances to win at the end, but Lakeem Jackson blocked Nick Williams’ layup with 0.9 seconds left and Marshall Henderson’s desperation 3-pointer was blocked by Laimonas Chatkevicius.
Michael Carrera led South Carolina with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Murphy Holloway, playing against the team he transferred to before heading back to Mississippi, led the Rebels with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Henderson, the SEC’s leading scorer at 19.7 points a game, scored 11 points, shooting just 4-of-17 from the field and making just three of his 11 3-point attempts.
South Carolina took its biggest lead of the game, 54-49, with 9:42 left, but the Rebels went on a 13-2 run and took a 62-56 lead with 5:04 left on a basket by Holloway.
Mississippi wouldn’t score again.
Reginald Buckner fouled out with 3:39 left for Ole Miss, and Jackson hit one of two free throws. Brenton Williams hit a 3 with 2:09 left to cut the Rebels’ lead to two.
Henderson missed a 3-pointer with just under a minute to go and Williams saved an errant pass. Bruce Ellington missed a layup on the drive, but the rebound was kicked out to Smith, who buried the winning 3 with 25.1 left.
Henderson got a good look from behind the arc on Ole Miss’ next possession, but missed. Smith missed the front end of a 1-in-1 with 8.4 seconds left, but Mississippi didn’t get its last two shots to the rim.
Mississippi is now in danger of falling out of the top four in the SEC, who all get byes to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament — a tournament the Rebels may now have to win to make their first NCAA tournament in 11 years.