In what amounted to an elimination game, Ole Miss got the benefit of a friendly whistle at the end of overtime as they managed to hold on and beat Tennessee 77-72 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
Ole Miss had already allowed Tennessee sharp-shooter Skylar McBee to get enough space to knock down a game-tying three and force the overtime, the Vols had managed to trim a seven-point lead with a minute left to just two points in the final 20 seconds. After Jarnell Stokes hit a free throw, Cam Tatum jumped a passing lane and deflected the ball off of Terrence Henry’s shoulder.
Only the referees saw it differently. They gave Ole Miss the ball back and the Rebels finally started hitting some free throws. Tennessee never actually got a chance to tie the game.
On replay, the missed call was quite clear. But it was also quite clear why the ref missed it; from where he was standing, he had a terrible angle to see the second deflection. It happens.
But there is more to this than just a loss for the Vols. Tennessee is now, effectively, out of the hunt for an at-large bid. This win wouldn’t have gotten Tennessee in, but it would have gotten them a date with the winner of Georgia-Vanderbilt tomorrow, and if that were to be Vandy, the Vols would have been just about one win away from locking up a trip to the dance.
Tennessee won eight of their last nine games to get themselves into a position to receive the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament. Based on where this program was when Cuonzo Martin took over, there is no way to look at the year and think of it as anything other than a success.
Ole Miss, on the other hand, lives to fight another day. The Rebels are an interesting bubble case. They don’t have all that many good wins, but they also don’t have all that many bad losses. Just like Tennessee this win doesn’t get them into the tournament, but if they make it to the SEC finals, the committee is going to have to take a long, hard look at the Rebels.
To be frank, this was the result that all of the bubble teams across the country wanted. Tennessee had a chance to get in with a win. Ole Miss definitely has some work left to do.
Does anyone actually want to make the tournament this year?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.