With surprise loss, Ole Miss’ NCAA hopes take hit

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AP photo/Mary Ann Chastain

Mississippi’s SEC Tournament hopes took a body blow on Wednesday night as the Rebels were beaten by lowly South Carolina 63-62 in Columbia.

That was the fifth loss in seven games for Andy Kennedy’s team, which may now face an uphill battle to get in the NCAA Tournament.

Remember, Ole Miss got off to a 6-0 league start and climbed to 16th in the polls before that 87-74 loss to visiting Kentucky on Feb. 2. The wheels have left the bus since then.

Marshall Henderson missed 13 of his 17 shots last night and Ole Miss shot just 37.5 percent from the floor. Even worse, Mississippi earned just nine free throws, making six.

South Carolina did get a good game from freshman Michael Carrera, who scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Eric Smith drained a three-pointer with 25.1 seconds left to win it for the Gamecocks.

“I finally saw the team that we had four weeks ago try and play again,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “I feel good for our kids because they have been in the grinder here for three weeks and league play is unforgiving.”

Meanwhile, Ole Miss is 56th in the RPI this morning.

Alabama struggled some with visiting and hapless Mississippi State, but the Crimson Tide did hold on for a 64-56 victory. Rodney Cooper scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Anthony Grant’s club, which has now won four in a row and six of its last seven. Mississippi State has lost 11 straight games. The Bulldogs were playing with five scholarship players in Tuscaloosa.

Elston Turner turned in an efficient game, making six of 12 shots, including four of nine from three-point range, and was a perfect five-of-five from the foul line for 21 points as Texas A&M won at Auburn 65-56. The Aggies made 16 of 20 free throws on the road. Not bad.

Auburn had just one player in double figures. Allen Payne scored nine points. Tony Barbee’s team has lost 10 of its last 11 games and now goes on the road to play Ole Miss and Arkansas. Texas A&M has not won back-to-back games since January 9 and 12 over Arkansas and Kentucky. The Aggies come home to play a hot Tennessee team on Saturday.

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