Video: Ole Miss Drops OT Heartbreaker Against Virginia Tech
OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI/Ole Miss Athletics) – The game was decided in the final few possessions, one highlighted by defense as both teams struggled from the field. Ole Miss led for most of regulation, but dropped its second consecutive game in overtime, this one 83-80 to Virginia Tech at The Pavilion Saturday afternoon.
After Tuesday’s 99-97 loss to South Dakota State, Andy Kennedy implored his group to play with an edge at the defensive end of the floor. Ole Miss answered the call in that respects by holding Virginia Tech to 29 points in the first half on 8 of 23 shooting. The Hokies came into the game leading college basketball in field goal percentage and were second in the country in scoring offense and assists.
“I just thought we were really locked in,” Kennedy said. “Then we got in foul trouble which made us timid by nature.”
Ole Miss led 39-29 at halftime largely thanks to 12 first half points from Terence Davis, all of which came by way of the three-point shot. Davis finished the game with 17 points, as did Breein Tyree. The Rebels were active on the defensive end of the floor, luring the Hokies into 10 first half turnovers and creating second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass.
The second half brought offensive struggles for the Rebels as Virginia Tech ratcheted up its defensive pressure, extending it at times to a full court press. The Rebels were just 29 of 73 from the field for the game and shot under 40 percent in the second half.
The Hokies slowly cut into the deficit after Ole Miss snagged its largest lead of the game at 47-31. A 16-3 run cut the Rebels’ lead to just three with seven minutes to go.
“They put their head down and started going to the basket,” Kennedy said. “We were unable to keep them in front of us. Shooting 54 percent from the free throw line in your own building gave them opportunity after opportunity. We just could not get it done.”
Ole Miss struggled with foul trouble. Dominik Olejniczak and Marcanvis Hymon fouled out with more than 14 minutes left in the game. Bruce Stevens played a lot of second half minutes in the post as a result. It softened up the middle of the floor around the rim and the Hokies took advantage. Virginia Tech went to the rim often and shot 37 free throws as a result. Kerry Blackshear Jr. led the Hokies in scoring with 17 points. Ole Miss held Virginia Tech’s two leading scorers, Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs, to 16 combined points. Both were averaging 19 coming in.
The game remained within four points for the final seven minutes. Neither team could get into much of a rhythm at the offensive end. The two teams sporadically traded buckets before a couple in a row in the final minute gave the Hokies a 72-68 lead.
“We led the game for over 80 percent of it,” Kennedy said. “We have to close out the game.”
Ole Miss scored and forced a turnover in the back court with just a couple seconds left on a melting clock. Markel Crawford grabbed a hold of the ball and laid it in send the game into overtime tied at 72.
The Rebels led briefly in overtime, but shot selection and missed free throws doomed them down the stretch. Davis took a contested three with Ole Miss down 81-80 with less than 30 seconds left. In a game where the junior made play after play on the defensive end, this ball rimmed out.
“I didn’t like it much,” Kennedy said. “Usually our shot selection is better in the second half because I can get in their ear. He was right in front of me. He was just trying to make a play. Sometimes our decision-making leaves something to be desired, but maybe that is my fault.”
Virginia Tech grabbed a slim lead and held onto it for the final two and a half minutes.
“There were a couple times where we could’ve gone away and everyone would’ve understood,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said. “But we didn’t. We kept battling.”
Close games have been aplenty for Ole Miss early on in this 2017 season. There have been times where the Rebels have made enough plays down the stretch to seal a win and times when they have not. Kennedy thinks his team is close with a lot of opportunities remaining.
“We have got to find a way to make winning plays,” Kennedy said. “We were close. We are right there. We have to make a play.”
Ole Miss returns to action next Saturday (Dec. 9) at Middle Tennessee. The Rebels will hit the road for their first true road game of the year. Tipoff is slated for 5 p.m. CT.
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