Total transparency here - I had an “Ole Miss lets its undefeated streak end” headline written, deleted, rewritten and now deleted again.
Somehow, someway, Ole Miss (9-0) squandered a seven point halftime lead and a six point lead with less than a minute, but the Rebels won 70-68 when a lay-up from UCF (6-3) did not beat the buzzer. The last 50 or so seconds of this game were like riding the dadgum Ninja at Six Flags over Georgia, head spinning and confusing afterwards but equally as joyful.
With a TJ Caldwell made free throw and 52 seconds remaining, Ole Miss led 68-62, and things were trending toward a Rebel victory. Then UCF made a three pointer with 47 seconds remaining, and five seconds later Allen Flanigan turned over the ball and fouled Shemarri Allen who made two free throws. Yes, a five point swing in less than 10 seconds of play is NOT ideal.
Forty two seconds.
Another Ole Miss turnover from there gave UCF possession and a chance for the lead with less than 30 seconds to go in the game. But Moussa Cisse (thank you NCAA for his late eligibility approval) blocked a go-ahead shot and caused a shot clock violation.
Flanigan then calmly drained two free throws to give Ole Miss a 70-67 lead. The Rebels did the smart thing fouling quickly to only give the Golden Knights a chance for two points at the charity stripe.
Darius Johnson made one of two free throws, and the Rebels went for a long pass on the inbounds that was immediately knocked down and put back for a potential game-tying lay-up. But video review clearly showed the shot was released maybe a tenth of a second or two too late, and the Rebels escaped with the win.
Flanigan led the Rebels in scoring with 18 points, and TJ Caldwell chipped in 14 of his own. UCF outrebounded Ole Miss by 10, which allowed the game to remain close despite shooting only 36 percent from the field.
Ole Miss is now one of only seven undefeated teams in college basketball this season. At some point, there’s going to be some close games that turn into losses, but for now, it’s a good night to be a Rebel.