OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy is not a history expert, but he confirmed his research to the media after Saturday’s 80-67 win over Rutgers.
“I checked it. Ole Miss has never beaten a Big East Conference team at home until today,” Kennedy said. “I thought we would have done it pre-Civil War maybe. I thought General Lee might have gotten one, but he didn’t.”
The Rebels (6-0) needed a 14-2 outburst in the final seven minutes to snap a 55-55 tie with scrappy Rutgers. Marshall Henderson, who led the Rebels with 18 points, was the decisive factor in the winning surge.
Henderson drilled consecutive three-point shots and fired an assist to Reginald Buckner to start a three-point play. LaDarius White finished the run with a three-point shot for an insurmountable 69-57 lead with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left. Rutgers never got closer than 10 points again.
“We blinked. We blinked on Henderson,” Rutgers coach Mike Rice said. “I liked 75 percent of what I saw today and the other 25 percent we’re working hard to correct. We were right there at 55-55 with an opportunity.”
The Scarlet Knights (4-2) made it difficult for Ole Miss, racing to a 12-2 lead in the opening five minutes and holding a 36-32 lead at halftime. In the final 10 minutes, Rutgers had no effective answers for the inside combination of Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner.
Holloway finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Buckner had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. The duo was joined in double figures with 13 points from White and 12 from Jarvis Summers.
“We stayed after it inside. I don’t think we wore them down, but we got them in foul trouble,” Holloway said. “Rutgers played hard. It was physical out there, but we were able to get it done around the basket.”
The Rebels needed that inside edge, since they managed a season-low 17-of-39 from the free throw line. Ole Miss actually shot a higher percentage from the field, hitting 28-of-64 shots.
“It’s been that way in these Big East/SEC games,” Kennedy said. “The games I’ve watched, the games have been really physical and the teams struggle offensively to hit shots. I’m happy we got to 80 points shooting those percentages.”
Rutgers struggled from the field, managing 22-of-54, 40.7 percent and had only four baskets in the final seven minutes. Eli Carter, the leading scorer this season with 18 points per game, finished with 10 points, including 1-of-12 from the field and 0-of-6 from three-point range.
Myles Mack led Rutgers with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Dane Miller added 14 points and Wally Judge had a team-high nine rebounds. The Scarlet Knights were 18-of-26, 69.2 percent, from the free-throw line
The Rebels improved to 58-2 at home against non-conference opponents. Ole Miss improved to 9-11 all-time against Big East Conference teams, but Saturday’s win marked the historic home win.
“I know it’s the same story, but you’ve got to defend your home court and we were able to do that today,” Kennedy said. “Any time you win a non-conference game against a well-coached Big East team, that’s a good win.”