Ole Miss Tries for First-Ever NCAA Tournament Win

March 11, 1999

CHARLOTTE, NC - After making a quick and heartbreaking exit in last year's NCAA tournament, Mississippi will try to stay in the tournament longer this season when they play Villanova in the first round of the Midwest Regional on Friday night at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

In last season's first-round Midwest regional game, Valparaiso's Bryce Drew drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give 13th-seed Valparaiso a 70-69 upset victory over Ole Miss.

It wasn't the first early exit for the Rebels, who are playing in their fourth NCAA tournament. Ole Miss has yet to win a tournament game, going 0-3, with a first-round loss to Clemson in 1997 and a first-round loss to Kansas in 1981, when they won the SEC Tournament championship.

This season, the No. 9-seed Rebels (19-12) face the No. 8-seed Villanova Wildcats (21-10), a team they have never met.

"We get a chance to get that taste out of our mouth about Valpo," said first-year coach Rod Barnes, an assistant coach last year and a former Rebel player.

Ole Miss almost didn't get that chance by losing five of its last seven games, including an 83-73 defeat to No. 14 Kentucky in the second round of the SEC Tournament on March 5. But the NCAA tournament selection committee looked past that and gave the Rebels a chance at tournament redemption.

The Rebels are led by senior forward Keith Carter who averaged 16.5 points and 4.4 rebounds this season.

The Wildcats are making their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since losing to California, 75-68, in the second round of the 1997 East Regional.

Villanova is led by senior guard John Celestand, who is averaging 20.3 points over his last eight games.

The Wildcats have three other players scoring in double figures, including senior Howard Brown (13.3 ppg), junior Malik Allen (10.9 ppg), and junior Brian Lynch (10.7 ppg).

The winner of the Ole Miss-Villanova contest will meet the winner of No. 1 seed Michigan State and No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary's in the second round on Sunday.


 

 

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