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Mississippi 66, Florida 63

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE -- Take Ole Miss off that darned NCAA tournament bubble.

Clutch performances by Murphy Holloway and Marshall Henderson delivered the Rebels their second SEC tournament title and an automatic NCAA tourney berth, coming back from a 12-point halftime deficit to upset Florida, 66-63.

Holloway, a 54.4 percent free-throw shooter, hit one of two free throws with 8.6 seconds left for the three-point victory margin.

Florida's Mike Rosario was intentionally fouled with 4.2 seconds left. He missed the first, then intentionally missed the second with teammate Erik Murphy tapping the rebound to Kenny Boynton, who missed a game-tying 3 at the buzzer.

Holloway finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, Henderson added 21 for the Rebels (26-8), who are going to the NCAA tourney for the first time under seventh-year head coach Andy Kennedy.

Henderson was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Holloway and Reginald Buckner were also on the all-tourney team.

"We didn't play perfect basketball, but we played with a toughness that is admirable," Kennedy said. "This has been a seven-year journey. I knew this day would come."

Florida (26-7), which won the SEC regular season championship, was led by Rosario with 18 points and Boynton with 13.

Trailing Florida 38-26 at the half, Ole Miss opened the second half on a 17-5 run to tie the game at 43-43.

Florida attacked Ole Miss inside from the opening tap. The Gators' first two baskets were jump hooks by Patric Young and Murphy respectively over Buckner and Holloway.

Kennedy, trying to keep his big guys out of foul trouble, had the Rebels switch to a 2-3 zone. And all the Gators did was shoot over it time and time, knocking down four 3s in the game's first 10 minutes to take a double-digit lead.

The only reason Ole Miss was in shouting distance of the lead at halftime, trailing 38-26, was Holloway. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound senior had 12 points, going 6 of 7 from the field. The rest of the Rebels' starting lineup was 5-for-17.

Ole Miss' mode of operation has been a slow starting team that staggered through first halves before warming to the occasion. And that's what happened again against a team that had won 11 of 12 previous meetings over the Rebels.
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