Three Hits: Ole Miss rally fuels tourney win

It wasn’t as big or unexpected as Harvard’s win over New Mexico, but Mississippi’s 57-46 victory over Wisconsin turned into an object lesson for what to do — and what not to do — in tournament play.

Here are three things we learned from Friday’s SEC-Big Ten clash:

1. If you’re going to shoot the king, you better kill him

Coach Bo Ryan’s strategy was simple and obvious: If Wisconsin could shut down shooter Marshall Henderson, it would force the Rebels to play inside — where the Badgers held the advantage — and subsequently suck the energy out of the Ole Miss players and fans.

The plan worked beautifully in the first half. Henderson was one of 11 from the field, and the Badgers led (25-22) despite nine turnovers.

But Wisconsin couldn’t keep Henderson (19 points) down the entire game. Once he hit his first three-pointer in the second half, everything changed. Energy, momentum, enthusiasm, tempo and crowd noise all shifted to Ole Miss.

Henderson finished as the game’s leading scorer. And once he broke free, every Ole Miss supporter knew it’d be the start of something big — even though the Rebels trailed until midway through the second half.  

2. Experience beats talent underneath

When you’re banging big bodies under the basket, it helps if you’ve been there before.

It also helps if you have a buddy beside you who’s been there with you.

Murphy Holloway and Reginald Butler have been playing with each other for four years. Not only can they anticipate the other’s moves, they can complete each other’s sentences. That matters in a tight game, especially one where your star perimeter shooter has a bad half.

Holloway had 10 points and nine rebounds. Buckner had nine points and 12 rebounds. But together, they kept Ole Miss in the picture until Henderson could spark the offense.

The Rebels didn’t do it with towering dunks or highlight-reel blocks, but they banged the boards and were always in the right place on both ends.

That kind of play only comes with experience. And that experience could extend the Ole Miss upset streak into the weekend.

3. When Plan A isn’t working, you’d better have a Plan B

Wisconsin’s offensive strategy was to win the battle inside, and when guards were forced to collapse, light Ole Miss up from the perimeter. But coach Andy Kennedy had his defense ready. The Rebels pressured the guards while Buckner and Holloway played disciplined position basketball underneath.

That took the Badgers out of their rhythm, and when they fell behind, they had no backup plan. Granted, the Ole Miss defense was tough, but a team that beat Indiana twice and won a dozen games in the Big Ten should score more than 46 points.

The fact that Wisconsin didn’t was a coaching error. Henderson certainly won the game for Ole Miss; but on the flip side, Bo Ryan equally lost it for Wisconsin.