Ole Miss Falls To Vanderbilt In SEC Tournament Opener, 70-50
March 11, 2004
By PAUL NEWBERRY
ATLANTA - Vanderbilt has 20 wins for the first time since 1998, and it may be enough to get the Commodores back to the NCAA tournament.
Dawid Przybyszewski scored 17 points and Vanderbilt solidified its postseason credentials with a 70-50 victory over Mississippi in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday night.
Vanderbilt advanced to meet regular-season champion Mississippi State in Friday's quarterfinals.
The Commodores (20-8) haven't been to the NCAAs in seven years, but their credentials are solid. They were .500 in one of the country's toughest conferences and 30th in the RPI rankings at the end of the regular season.
But another win certainly didn't hurt, even though it came against an Ole Miss team finishing up its second straight losing season.
The plodding Rebels (13-15) fell behind 42-27 at halftime and never made a serious run over the final 20 minutes. They lost to Vanderbilt for the second time this season, following a 77-65 defeat at home.
Midway through the first half, Ole Miss forward Aaron Harper took a nasty shot to the face during a loose-ball scrum at center court. He needed 17 stitches to stop the bleeding, forcing him out for the rest of the half.
Play was halted for several minutes while blood was wiped off the court. When the game resumed, Vanderbilt quickly pushed a 17-16 lead out of reach.
The Commodores scored nine straight points - the last seven by Przybyszewski. The native of Poland worked inside for a couple of layups, then stepped outside to sink a 3-pointer.
Ole Miss never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
The only whiff of a comeback came when the Rebels had the ball and a chance
to close the margin into single digits with about seven minutes remaining.
After they failed to convert, Przybyszewski and Russell Lakey hit back-to-back
3s to give Vanderbilt a 64-48 lead.
Harper returned in the second half, wearing a different jersey - 42 instead of 1 - because of blood stains on his regular uniform. But he wasn't much of a factor, scoring only 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting - just 1-of-7 outside the arc.
Harper was the team's second-leading scorer at 16.7 points a game.
All-SEC selection Matt Freije added 14 points for Vanderbilt, which shot an efficient 24-of-47 (51 percent) from the field and committed only 11 turnovers. The Commodores sank 9-of-18 from 3-point range, compared with 4-of-24 for Ole Miss.
Lakey chipped in with 11 points.
Justin Reed scored 15 points to lead the Rebels, who were doomed by a miserable 18-of-58 (31 percent) shooting effort.
Ole Miss was the lowest-scoring team in the league, averaging just 63.7 points a game during the regular season.
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