It took a second half surge, but Ole Miss improved its standing by taking down Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss took advantage of a tired Vanderbilt team to wear down its opponent and win 64-52 on the strength of a great second half.
Vanderbilt looked like it might continue its run as spoiler for most of the first half, as the Commodores led by as much as eight points. It took 16:31 for the Rebels to even get to 20 points on the game, but that occurred during a 10-3 Rebel run to tie things up at 26 at the midway point. Despite the struggles there at the end, Vandy didn't look like it was in too bad of shape.
Ole Miss took control of the game in the second half, however. Reginald Bucker and Marshall Henderson combined for 27 of the team's 37 points after the break as they powered the team ahead. Andy Kennedy directed his team to employ a slashing, attacking offense to take advantage of the Commodores' tired legs, and it worked well. Vandy resorted to shooting a lot of threes to compensate for its loss of momentum, but it managed to hit just two of the 14 it attempted in the second half. Ole Miss made just enough free throws in the final two minutes to keep the game out of reach and ice it away.
Henderson, naturally, led all scorers with 23 points, with Buckner backing him up with 15 points and nine rebounds. Murphy Holloway also showed up well, nailing down 12 points and grabbing eight boards. Kedren Johnson was the only Commodore to reach double digits with 12 points, though Dai-Jon Parker had seven rebounds to go with his nine points and Kevin Bright contributed eight points and rebounds apiece. Poor shooting opposite good defense ultimately doomed Vandy, as it connected on only 34% of field goals and a dismal 20% of three pointers.
The Rebels will take on Florida in the finals tomorrow. Obviously a win there would secure them a spot in March Madness, but winning (or really, not losing) today might have gotten them in the Big Dance anyway.