Overtime Win Over Nebraska Propels Rebels To NIT Quarterfinals

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OXFORD, Miss. (AP)  Ole Miss freshman guard Zach Graham did not start Monday's second round matchup with Nebraska. But clearly, he knew how to finish.

Graham scored 10 of his 14 points in overtime, lifting Ole Miss to an 85-75 overtime win, pushing the Rebels into Wednesday's quarterfinals at Virginia Tech.

"My job is to bring energy and I was in the right place at the right time," said Graham, who averages six points per game. "The lanes were open and I just tried to make plays."

Graham hit consecutive driving layups to stake Ole Miss (23-10) to an insurmountable 76-71 lead in the opening two minutes of overtime. The Rebels converted 7-of-9 free throws in the extra session to prevent a Nebraska rally.

"It's fitting that it has come down to this. We've got to win on the road to earn the trip to New York," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "I can tell you this, it's going to be a war."

Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice led the Rebels with 18 and 15 points, respectively. The inside tandem of Kenny Williams and Dwayne Curtis combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds, as the Rebels improved to 8-1 overall in NIT home games.

Nebraska (20-13) was led by Aleks Maric, who finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. However, Maric was forced to play 41 minutes and clearly wore down in overtime, missing two shots and hitting only 2-of-6 free throws.

"He had a great game, but you can't go 41 minutes with this physical a game and it not take a toll on you," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. "Our guys played hard and really competed, but we ran out of gas. You can't give up 15 point in overtime and expect to win."

Ade Dagunduro scored 16 points, while Steve Harley and Jay-R Strowbridge added 14 and 11, respectively, for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska was only 1-of-7 from the field and 2-of-6 from the free throw line in the overtime period.

The Cornhuskers, who trailed by as many as nine points and throughout most of regulation, pulled even at 70-70 with 39 seconds left on a layup by Dagunduro. Nebraska survived two opportunites by the Rebels to win it in regulation.

But, in overtime, Nebraska had no answer for Graham, who repeatedly drove the middle of the defense for easy shots.

"We've got a lot of perimeter players that can drive to the basket," Graham said. "They had to be concerned about Polynice and Warren, so that opened it up for me."

Warren and Polynice staked Ole Miss to a 40-36 halftime lead, after leading by as many as nine points on three occasions. The clubs swapped leads nine times, before Dagunduro's layup capped regulation.

That set up Graham's overtime heroics for the Rebels, who finished 32-of-61 from the field, 53 percent. Ole Miss finished 14-of-20 from the free throw line, after missing four straight attempts in the opening minutes.

Nebraska finished 25-of-57 from the field, 44 percent and 19-of-26 from the free throw line. But, those numbers dropped off significantly with the cold shooting performance in overtime.


 

 

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