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Missed opportunity: Rebels blow 10-point halftime lead

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

The start of last night’s game between the Ole Miss Rebels and 13th-ranked Florida Gators could not have gone any better for the Rebels. After Florida scored the game’s first basket, Ole Miss went on a 20-2 run to take a 16-point lead behind the hot shooting of senior Terrance Henry and junior Nick Williams. After going into halftime with a 10-point deficit, however, the Gators stormed back and outscored the Rebels 36-22 in the second half to escape with a 64-60 win.

“I thought the effort was there,” Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. “The execution failed us a bit. They did a great job with their ball movement in the second half, and then when they had to have guys step up when it was time to make a shot, they made a shot.”

The Rebels, who have struggled shooting at times this season, put on an offensive clinic in first half, shooting 60.9 percent (14-for-23) from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from behind the arc and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

In the second half, the offensive struggles returned for Ole Miss. The Rebels shot 27.6 percent (8-for-29) from the field and went just 1-of-6 from the three-point range and 5-of-9 from the free throw line. Florida tied the game at 46 with 10:15 left in the game after a 10-2 run.

The Gators then grabbed a 48-46 lead with 6:27 left in the game, their first lead since the opening basket. Ole Miss regained a 52-50 lead, but Florida responded with three straight three-point baskets to take a 59-54 lead and then stretched the lead 61-54 with just 1:49 to play.

Ole Miss rallied late with some quick baskets and missed free throws by Florida. After a jump ball with 18 second left, with the possession arrow in favor Ole Miss, the Rebels had the ball down by only three, 63-60. Ole Miss, however, turned the ball over when Maurice Aniefiok mishandled a pass from freshman guard Jarvis Summers. The Rebels were then forced to foul, and the Gators made one of their two free throws to seal the 64-60 win.

With the loss, Ole Miss falls to 13-7 overall and 3-3 in SEC play, while Florida improves to 16-4 overall and 4-1 in SEC play.

Henry recorded his second straight double-double with team highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Williams finished with 14 points. Henry and Williams were also a combined 7-of-11 from three-point range.

“It’s real tough, losing a home game to nationally-ranked Florida,” Henry said. “But we’re going to have to move on. We’ve got a lot of basketball left to play. We wanted to come out and prove ourselves, and we did that in the first half. We didn’t finish it off. I’m taking it hard. We’ve just got to move on.”