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Missouri men's basketball lets win slip away against Ole Miss

Saturday, March 16, 2013 | 1:35 a.m. CDT; updated 5:23 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 16, 2013
The Missouri men's basketball team lost to Ole Miss 64-62 in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Earnest Ross was the first to leave the celebration. 

He walked toward the tunnel, hands on his head, leaving the reporters, the fans, the cameramen and the court.

A shirtless Alex Oriakhi was only five strides behind.

He walked with a few more of his teammates, his sweaty jersey gripped tightly in his hand. 

They didn’t want to watch Ole Miss celebrating its 64-62 victory Friday night against Missouri in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament. They didn’t want to hear the Rebels' band sing and chant. They didn’t want to shake hands.

They just wanted to leave.

***

There were 27 seconds left in the game, and Laurence Bowers slowly walked toward his teammates.

It was an accident. A miscue. He was trying to pass the ball to Keion Bell, not to Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson on the inbounds pass.

The score was tied at 62, and the Ole Miss fans that traveled to Nashville for the tournament were as loud as ever.

Bowers looked up at the scoreboard and hung his head, and Phil Pressey gave him a quick pat on the back.

The Rebels would make the final shot.

***

Frank Haith stared blankly at the court, still in his crouch.

He looked stunned, having just watched Ole Miss guard Derrick Millinghaus dribble through two of his players and make a difficult jump shot to put the Rebels up 64-62.

Early in the second half, the Tigers were winning by 14 points, but now with 1.1 seconds left, they were losing by two.

Following a timeout, Bowers once again inbounded the ball, knowing that he not only had to deliver a perfect pass, but it had to lead to a perfect shot.

He heaved the ball one-handed cross the half court line, but his lob was intercepted.

Game over.

***

Haith, Oriakhi, and Pressey sat in Missouri's postgame news conference with blank expressions, trying to explain how yet another win slipped away.

“We didn’t finish the game how we wanted,” Pressey said. 

He was right. Missouri played extremely well throughout most of the game. Oriakhi had a team-high 16 points and nine rebounds, while Pressey paired 13 points with seven assists. The Tigers outrebounded the Rebels 42 to 32 and even shot better from the field at 40.7 percent.

But they couldn’t contain Henderson, who scored 27 points, and couldn’t limit the turnovers; they had 16 in the game.

With the win, Missouri would have been playing Vanderbilt on Saturday in the semifinals of the tournament.

Instead, the Tigers will have to head back to Columbia early with a difficult loss hanging over their heads, approaching the most important part of their season.

The NCAA Tournament. 


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