Sound "Taps" on ye coppered cornets, fellow Tad Smith Coliseum mourners. Drag down the banners thence to half mast. Hold silent vigil out of respect for the recently deceased -- a rickety, leaky ship is now moored forever, held fast to dock before disappearing in a spectacular fireball. Requiescat in pace, C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum, Feb. 21, 1966 to Dec. 22, 2015.
How appropriate that Phil Cunningham's Troy squad was on hand for the Rad Pad's last hurrah Tuesday, an 83-80 Rebel victory in overtime. Cunningham, you may recall, was a longtime assistant at Mississippi State during their mini-dominance of the SEC West during the mid-aughts, so his memories in the stadium are undoubtedly happy ones. Ole Miss entered Tuesday's scrap with the Trojans 489-210 all time in the building, so their last win in the building brings them to a cool 490-210.
Troy jumped out to a 6-2 lead early, but nine very ugly Rebel points over the next four minutes drew the Basketbears out to an 11-2 edge. From there, they traded barbs with Troy, riding three outside splash-downs from Tomasz Gielo in the first half, but the Trojans handled 11 timely turnovers with swiftness to bring a 32-31 lead into halftime. Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey contributed his first minutes as a Rebel hoopman, having sat the first 11 games of the year due to some academic eligibility snafus this fall.
Sebastian Saiz sat for much of the first half due to an eye injury sustained against Memphis, but the Spanish menace strapped on the RecSpecs and saw a fair number of minutes. In what's becoming a theme to the season, Stefan Moody was cold from the commencing tipoff -- he had just four points in the first period -- but slowly found the basket in the second half.
Here are three takeaways from the Rad Pad's closing ceremonies.
The Rebels played ugly ball.
Troy knows how to capitalize on turnovers. 11 Ole Miss turnovers to start things is not ideal as far as successful basketball goes, and whatever gains in transition guard play were made against Memphis seemed to backslide against Troy. The Trojans' midcourt trap ran very well, and with Moody at times deferring to Martavious Newby for pointman duties, consistency in transition was sorely lacking.
The second half began much better, though, wherein the Rebs struck out on a 15-4 run in the period's opening five minutes, and Moody livened up by hitting his first three-pointer of the game. Still, the Rebs couldn't fully enforce their will on Troy, who rode a string of long bombs and Ole Miss turnovers to go up 70-69 with under two minutes left. With enough for two possessions remaining, Moody tied things up at 73, and after a Trojan turnover and failed trip to the rim, Troy was left with 3.7 to win the game.
Overtime was a back-and-forth tussle, with clutch shooting from Gielo and especially Saiz, who hit two crucial free throws with about 30 seconds remaining to push the Rebs up 82-80. On the Trojans' ensuing possession, Jeremy Holliman missed a layup attempt and the fouls calculus took over from there.
We've reached a turning point.
And it's not just architectural. The Rebs' 2015-16 season now veers off for a quick road trip to Lexington to begin conference play after Christmas, and it's now during college basketball seasons that real NCAA Tournament résumés begin to take shape.
One observable storyline to this point is the emergence of Tomasz Gielo as real offensive force. After some initial questions about where he fit in, the fifth-year senior transfer from Liberty is long and can shoot from all over the floor. Against Troy he drained five threes, and his movements on the floor can often get lost by opponents who are too concerned with Moody's itchy trigger. The result is an experienced but unassuming baller being left wide open for this or that jump shot from range, or if you like, DIVE BOMBING THE RIM ON A FAST BREAK:
tomasz gielo accepts the assist from stefan moody off the fast break. https://t.co/XlH9arI3Ao— jim lohohomar (@jimlohmar) December 22, 2015
Let's all share our favorite #TadPadMemories.
Dang I wish I coulda seen WIDESPREAD PANIC at the tad !!!— marshall henderson (@NativeFlash22) December 22, 2015
@RedCupRebellion my favorite tad pad memory was the unavoidable transition to manhood when experiencing the urinal trough for the first time— Justin Williams (@justinallen4) December 22, 2015
Tad Pad memories: Some of AK's rants were crystal clear in front of a half-full gym. To a sulking David Huertas: "JUSTIFY YOUR EXISTENCE!"— David Brandt (@davidbrandtAP) December 22, 2015
Tad Pad memories: Andy Kennedy bringing me out to midcourt one time and pointing to the ceiling. "See that light blue speck? That's the SKY"— David Brandt (@davidbrandtAP) December 22, 2015
My favorite feature of Tad Smith is that it had water fountains on the floor like it was a rec center.— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) December 22, 2015
Tad Smith Coliseum or a crude oil storage facility? pic.twitter.com/XCYMEpozMa— Bunkie Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) December 22, 2015
We'll always love you, C.M. Tad Smith Coliseum. Dulce et decorum est pro Pavilion mori.
The hype is real. pic.twitter.com/nhHlyCE4Jz— Ole Miss Basketball (@OleMissMBB) December 22, 2015