After 11 years of waiting to return to the NCAA tournament, Marshall Henderson and Murphy Holloway took over the SEC final and led Ole Miss to an improbable win, giving them the conference title for only the third time in history, making sure they don’t get left out for whatever reason.
So much is made about the NCAA tournament. I was just glad to get the albatross that is the NCAA tournament off the neck of our program so people can now exhale and get a new focal point.
After a 12-6 regular season in the SEC, which already included a 14 point loss to Florida, the Rebels came to play without their starting point guard, Jarvis Summers (9 points, 3.7 assists per game), which gave Henderson, the uncontested star of this team with 20.1 points per game this season, and Derrick Millinghaus, a share of the ball handling duty.
It worked – on both ends of the floor, as Mississippi, who ended up getting the #12 seed in the West Regional, beat Florida 66-63, probably costing the Gators the number 2 seed they thought they were going to get, maybe even challenge one of the top 4.
We worked so hard to get to this point, and it just feels so good to celebrate with the guys in the locker room. I don’t know man. I’m at a loss for words. Can you imagine going into a game of this magnitude with a backup quarterback? That’s what this team had to do.
Henderson scored 21 points, getting over the fact that he turned the ball over 7 times during the game, and was named the tournament MVP after being snubbed by league coaches for the All-SEC first team earlier in the week. Holloway had a big day with 23 points and 10 rebounds, as the two carried one of the best offensive teams in the nation against the best defense in the country, that also happens to mess it up when games get tight.
After the loss, the Florida Gators remain winless in games decided by less than 10 points this season. They’re 0-6 in games decided by single digits this season and have lost their last eight contests decided by less than 10 points going back to last season. The Gators’ last win in a game decided by less than 10 points was a 66-63 over Alabama during last year’s SEC Tournament.
The people trying to create this drama around a situation that’s not necessarily true. Our guys haven’t lost confidence at all. They dug themselves a hole with our lack of defense. The truth of the matter is we were up 12 and allowed Ole Miss to shoot 53 percent in the second half and we shot 29 percent.
The truth of the matter is that Florida got outplayed in a game that meant more to the other team, but that doesn’t change the fact that when things don’t go their way from the get go, they tend to struggle and close out games. Kenny Boynton had a chance to tie the game with 4.2 seconds left, but missed it and gave Ole Miss the spot they deserved in the big dance, despite not being as expecting to go real far in it like the Gators are, and suddenly have plenty of question marks surrounding their ability to make it out of tight situations.