Rebels Advance In NIT

March 15, 2000

Box Score

By RALPH D. RUSSO
Associated Press Writer

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Lataryl Williams and Marcus Hicks want to finish their Mississippi careers in New York City.

"We think we are going to the Big Apple," Hicks said after Ole Miss defeated an admittedly lethargic North Carolina Charlotte team 62-45 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday night.

If the Rebels play three more games like the one they did against the 49ers, the two seniors should have little problem reaching the NIT semifinals played at New York's Madison Square Garden.

"It's every player's dream to play in Madison Square Garden," said Williams, who scored 13 points, "to play on the same floor as MJ (Michael Jordan)."

Hicks had 14 points to lead five Rebels players in double figures and Ole Miss held the 49ers scoreless for seven minutes in the first half.

Mississippi was up 22-4 with 7:23 left in the first half and the lead never dropped below 12 the rest of the way.

Williams said he and Hicks have talked about trying to extend their careers as long as possible. Both players said they are playing with a sense of urgency.

"I'm fighting very hard," Hicks said. "That's why I'm diving over players and benches."

The Rebels, making their first NIT appearance since 1989, may have played their best game of the season. Ole Miss ran its offense to near perfection, shot well from the outside (7-of-16 from 3) and passed accurately and often (16 assists).

Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said the defense sparked the offense.

"We are a defensive-minded team," Barnes said. "When we have lapses on defense, our offense struggles."

Dee Tolliver led UNC Charlotte with just nine points. It was the first time this season Ole Miss held an opponent without a double-digit scorer. The 49ers shot just 27 percent, the lowest of the season for a Mississippi opponent.

 

 

Jason Flanigan also scored 13 for the Rebels, Rahim Lockhart scored 12 and Jason Harrison 10. Only five players scored for Mississippi (18-12).

North Carolina Charlotte (17-16), with its poor shooting and the fact it was without its best inside player, Tremaine Gardiner, was never in the game.

"They played real tough on the perimeter," 49ers guard Diego Guevara said. "Without Tremaine, they weren't helping inside."

The 49ers made the first basket, then the shots wouldn't fall from anywhere. North Carolina Charlotte went over seven minutes without scoring and missed 19 straight field-goal attempts during a 12-minute span.

UNC Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz thought his team was worn out from playing three games in the Conference USA tournament.

"We left a lot in Memphis," Lutz said. "Nothing worked tonight. We tried a lot of different things. They had the answers."

Ole Miss jumped out to a 22-4 lead and never looked back. The Rebels led 34-17 at half after shooting 58 percent (14-of-24), compared to the 49ers' 19 percent (6-of-31).

Mississippi's lead grew to as much as 22 in the second half and never went below 13.

"We have been known to have letdowns," Barnes said. "The intensity was there for 40 minutes tonight.

The Rebels shot 49 percent from the floor for the game and had 16 assists. The 49ers made just 27 percent of their shots.

Ole Miss extended its home non-conference winning streak to 34 games, third-longest in the country behind Maryland (70) and Penn State (46).

Ole Miss will play the winner of Thursday night's game between Southern Methodist and Southwest Missouri State.

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