March 16, 2013 11:02:54 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Mississippi men's basketball team's NCAA tournament hopes aren't dead, and a new Southeastern Conference rivalry is born.
Derrick Millinghaus made a driving basket with 1.1 seconds left Friday as No. 3 seed Mississippi rallied from a 14-point, second-half deficit to beat No. 6 seed University of Missouri 64-62 in an emotional SEC tournament quarterfinal that featured NCAA tournament intensity.
Naturally, Mississippi guard Marshall Henderson was right in the middle of it.
Henderson's fearless shooting and fiery attitude has thrilled Mississippi fans and irritated the Rebels' opponents all season, and he was as polarizing as ever Friday. He scored 20 of his 27 points after halftime, taunted Missouri fans during the Tigers' second-half meltdown and jumped on the scorer's table to celebrate after the game.
"I think we've just created a really big rivalry in the SEC between Ole Miss and Missouri," Henderson said. "That's good."
Mississippi (24-8) boosted its chances of earning their first NCAA tournament bid since 2002.
Henderson was Mississippi's biggest star for most of the night, but he didn't make the Rebels' biggest play. That honor belonged to Millinghaus, a backup guard who didn't even score in the first half.
Pressed into action when starting guard Jarvis Summers was shaken up early in the second half with a possible concussion, Millinghaus scored five of his 11 points in the last 30 seconds of the game.
After Phil Pressey's 3-pointer had put Missouri ahead 62-59 with 46.2 seconds left, Millinghaus tied the game his own 3-pointer 17 seconds later. He then drove toward the basket and made the winning shot with 1.1 seconds left. Although the play was designed for Henderson, Millinghaus saw an open lane and couldn't help himself.
"I looked and saw the lane was open, so I took one dribble and just threw it up," Millinghaus said. "I was kind of shaky. I was like I don't want to miss and take all the blame for this loss. It went in and I was like, 'Yes.' "
Mississippi had a chance at the winning shot because Henderson intercepted an inbounds pass from Missouri's Laurence Bowers around midcourt with 27 seconds left. Mississippi then called a timeout to set up the final play.
"They fronted our guys getting the ball inbounds, and I think that surprised Laurence a little bit," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "(It was) just a tough play."
Alex Oriakhi had 16 points while making all seven of his shots, Pressey scored 13 and Earnest Ross added 12 for Missouri (22-10). Murphy Holloway had nine points and 13 rebounds for Mississippi.
The dramatic victory gave Mississippi's NCAA tournament hopes a major lift on a day when other SEC bubble teams such as Tennessee and Kentucky lost.
Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy is the first Rebels coach ever to win 20 games in four straight seasons and the fifth coach in SEC history to reach the 20-win mark in six of his first seven seasons in the league. But the Rebels haven't earned an NCAA bid during his tenure.
The Rebels seemed poised to break through this year when they raced to a 17-2 start that included a 6-0 mark in conference play, but they split their final 12 regular-season games and believed they entered Friday's contest in a do-or-die situation.
"We got a gift at the end when they threw us the ball, but our effort and tenacity (were) simply because we were on death row, and we knew that in order to get off death row, you've got to make a play," Kennedy said. "And we were fortunate enough to make one or two."
Missouri led 42-28 early in the second half and still had a 13-point advantage with 13:24 remaining before Henderson led the Rebels on a furious comeback. Reginald Buckner's dunk with 2:44 left capped a 10-1 run and tied the score at 57-57.
It went back and forth from there.
Missouri regained the lead on an Oriakhi putback with 2:21 left, but Henderson tied it again by hitting both ends of a one-and-one with 1:08 remaining. Pressey and Millinghaus then exchanged 3-pointers to knot it up again before Millinghaus' big basket gave Mississippi its first lead since it pulled ahead 11-10 with 12:34 left in the first half.
"Every single game we've watched on TV (there) has been a big lead and it's come back down to the end, every single one of them that we've watched in the conference tournaments," Henderson said. "We knew at some point it was going to break our way. We just had to make some plays and get some stops."
Henderson made plenty of plays to get Mississippi back into position and seemed to revel in Missouri's collapse. He taunted Missouri fans during timeouts. When the scoreboard video showed a taped segment featuring Henderson late in the second half, Missouri fans showered him with boos.
Henderson was the center of attention, but Millinghaus stole the show in the end. When Summers went down, Millinghaus came up huge.
"They're two different types of point guards," Henderson said. "Milly is up and down and kind of crazier. Jarvis is more of a calm and collected. One's controlled. One's chaos. It works for both of them. Our teams can work both in chaos and controlled situations."
A little chaos was just what Mississippi needed to revive its NCAA tournament hopes.