100 YEARS FLASHBACK: Ole Miss - Kentucky 1997
As part of this season's celebration of the First 100 years of Ole Miss Basketball, OleMissSports.com will be featuring stories and exclusive content throughout the year that look back on some of the great moments, teams and players of the past. The celebration will culminate with the public introduction of the All-Century Team at the Feb. 21 Georgia game.
While the Rebels had experienced success through the years, the program had been unable to crack the nation's top-25 rankings. That all changed in 1997, thanks to a monumental upset of storied Kentucky. The following is the Clarion-Ledger account of January 11, 1997.
Rebels Await Top 25 Spot After Cats KO
By Robert Falkoff
OXFORD You might have to flip back the pages to the 1981 Southeastern Conference basketball tournament to find a more significant chapter in the story of Ole Miss basketball.
Ole Miss 73, Kentucky 69. It happened here Saturday at the sold-out Tad Smith Coliseum on national television. Sometimes, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Fifteen-point underdogs when they took the floor against the third-ranked team in America, the Rebels managed to turn ABC-TV analyst Dick Vitale head over heels by upsetting the defending national champs.
The victory means that when The Associated Press poll is announced Monday, the Rebels almost certainly will be ranked for the first time in the 88-year history of the school.
“I believe we can win the Western Division (of the SEC) and get an NCAA Tournament bid,” Ole Miss guard Keith Carter said. “But we have to stay focused and keep playing hard, solid basketball. It’s exciting to be where we are, but the most meaningful part of the season is still in front of us.”
It’s the second time in three years the Rebels have beaten a team ranked No. 3 nationally. Two years ago, Ole Miss upset third-ranked Arkansas. But that Ole Miss team finished just 8-19 and 3-13 in SEC play. This year, the Rebels are 11-3 and 3-1 in the SEC, with victories over Arkansas, Georgia, and Kentucky.
Fans stormed onto the court for an impromptu celebration Saturday. Not since Bob Weltlich’s ’81 team won the SEC tourney has there been such a buzz over Ole Miss basketball.
The Rebels threw the works at Kentucky. For the first time this season, they wore red uniforms. They also stole a page from the Rebel football team by filing through student body section 16 en route to the pregame introductions.
“We just wanted to do something different to throw Kentucky off,” Carter said.
After the Rebel football team came through the stands prior to their homecoming game against LSU last season, the Tigers went on to a 39-7 victory. This time, an unorthodox Rebel entrance led to bigger and better things.
Ole Miss defeated Kentucky for only the ninth time in 91 tries.“Kentucky is one of the top team in the country, but this game tells us we can be one of the top teams, too,” Rebels forward Ansu Sesay said. “People have to look at us now in that light.”
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