Ole Miss Opens Season With Win Over S.C. State; Faces Air Force Monday
Nov. 14, 2004
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- When the game was on the line, Justin Johnson was ready.
Johnson scored 15 points and keyed a decisive second half surge Sunday that carried Ole Miss to a 64-52 victory over South Carolina State in the Black Coaches Association Classic.
"I just tried to stay steady and play focused. I got some open looks and made a couple shots," said Johnson.
Trailing 38-31 after a basket by Thurman Zimmerman with 15:33 left, Ole Miss went on 22-5 run to lead 53-43. Johnson had 8 points in the game-breaking surge, including a 3-pointer for a 52-43 Rebels advantage with 7:03 remaining.
Until the Rebels broke loose with the scoring spurt, the Bulldogs controlled most of the game.
"We broke down mentally as a team and we did not execute like we did in the first half," said Zimmerman, who had a game-high 20 points.
It was the season opener for both teams and the first time the teams had met. Todd Abernethy had a career-high 18 points to lead the Rebels. Shawn Wiggins had 16 for the Bulldogs.
Ole Miss Coach Rod Barnes said his team hung tough after a first half in which the Bulldogs led most of the way and managed to wear down the opponent.
"I thought we showed good character today, especially when things weren't going our way," he said. "We made some turnovers and played them into some tough shots. I thought our kids just did a great job.
Bulldogs Coach Ben Betts agreed that defensive pressure in the second half made the difference.
"I thought down the stretch we didn't execute like we did early on," Betts said.
The game was one of four in the first round of the Classic, which has eight teams all playing games three days in a row. The tournament is hosted by Marquette.
The Bulldogs led 32-27 at the half. After Chris Rhodes gave Ole Miss a 26-25 lead with a free throw, Zimmerman made a three-point play with 1:34 left to put South Carolina State on top for good 28-26 in a seesaw first period.
The game was one of four in the first round of the Marquette-hosted tournament, which has eight teams playing three days consecutively. The Rebels advance into the winner's bracket of the BCA Classic and face Air Force Monday at 5:30 p.m. CT. The Falcons defeated Jacksonville State Sunday.
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