NIT First Round Recap - Ole Miss vs Troy
(2) Ole Miss 84, (7) Troy 65
The Ole Miss Rebels barely missed out on the NCAA Tournament. They didn't miss out on a chance to make noise in the first round of the NIT.
Coach Andy Kennedy's team defeated Kansas State and UTEP this season, but in the rough-and-tumble of Southeastern Conference competition, the Rebels couldn't deliver the consistency of an NCAA-worthy ballclub. Mississippi suffered in large part because the SEC West proved to be such a horrible division in 2010. No one on that side of the SEC divide produced a balanced and substantial record of achievement within and beyond the SEC.
One of the best and most revealing statistics of the year in college basketball is that in the regular season, the entire SEC West went 0-24 against the top four teams in the SEC East - Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida. All six SEC West schools lost four games against the big boys from the East, and that - as much as anything - spelled doom for Ole Miss on Selection Sunday. When one considers the fact that the Rebs bowed (again) to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals back on March 12, Ole Miss' record against the Eastern powers was actually 0-5, not 0-4.
With all this in mind, then, the Rebels were given a task on Wednesday night at Tad Smith Coliseum: Display some of the staying power and dependability that were so manifestly missing during the SEC season.
All in all, Kennedy's kids managed to do the deed.
Ole Miss thumped Troy, the regular-season champion of the Sun Belt Conference, by locking down the Trojans for prolonged periods of time. UM's defense was as consistent as it's been in quite a while, and because of this, coach Dan Maestri's Troy team just wasn't able to find a foothold in this contest. The two teams were locked in entertaining combat through the first 12 and a half minutes of play; at the 7:30 mark of the first half, the two squads were knotted up at 25.
Then came Ole Miss's defensive dynamism.
The Rebels held Troy scoreless for the next four minutes and accumulated a 37-25 lead with 3:30 left before halftime. Ole Miss took a 45-30 lead to the break and pushed its lead to 23 in the second half, and it appeared that the night was going to be a brief one in Oxford, Miss.
Troy - displaying the mettle of a conference champion - generated an 11-0 run to slice its deficit to just 12 points, at 65-53, with over 10 minutes remaining in regulation. Maestri's men didn't give up the ship on the road, even though they hit only 5 of 23 3-pointers. However, that brief 11-point flurry marked the exception and not the rule for the Trojans. Ole Miss regained its defensive edge and allowed only one made field goal in the next four minutes and 36 seconds. By the time Troy broke that cold spell, the Rebels had accumulated a 78-58 advantage with 5:36 remaining, and the rout was on.
Ole Miss has a quick turnaround for the second round of the NIT. Unlike some teams that will contest the round of 16 on Monday, March 22, Ole Miss will host third-seeded Memphis on Friday night back at the "Tad Pad." Tip-off is slated for 8:30 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN2.
By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer