NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Murphy Holloway scored 23 points and Marshall Henderson had 21 as the Mississippi Rebels gave coach Andy Kennedy his first NCAA tournament berth Sunday by upsetting 13th-ranked Florida 66-63 for the Southeastern Conference tournament championship.
The Rebels (26-8) now have won seven of eight grabbing their first tournament title since 1981 and their second ever. Even though they thought reaching this game for the first time since 2001 probably clinched the NCAA bid, the Rebels wanted the championship too.
Reginald Buckner added 13 points for Ole Miss.
Florida (26-7) haven't won this tournament since wrapping up a three-peat in 2007, and the SEC regular season champs still haven't won a game by fewer than 10 points this season. They now go into the NCAA tournament 0-6 in games decided by six points or less.
The Gators had a final chance to force overtime. Scottie Wilbekin missed both free throws with 4.2 seconds left, and Kenny Boynton's last gasp 3 glanced off the rim after he took a step back to make sure he was over the line.
Mike Rosario had 18 points and Boynton 13 for the Gators.
Ole Miss outshot the regular season champs 47.4 percent (27 of 57) compared to 37.3 percent (22 of 59) and outrebounded them 37-34. That gave the Rebels an 11-5 edge on second-chance points. The Gators also struggled at the free throw line, going just 3 of 11 there in the second half. They missed their final five attempts in the last 4:19.
Florida led 38-26 at halftime after hitting 7 of 14 3-pointers, taking advantage of Henderson hitting just 1 of 6 from the floor with three points.
The Rebels opened the second half on a 10-3 run to get back into the game. The Gators missed eight of their first 10 shots in the half, and Henderson found Buckner for a dunk with 13:39 left that tied it up for the first time at 43. The teams swapped the lead with the Gators using seven straight points to go up 53-52 on a 3-pointer by Murphy.
Then Nick Williams hit a jumper, Henderson scored on a driving layup, and Henderson knocked down another 3 off a miss by Williams when Buckner poked the ball out to the feisty guard, putting Ole Miss up 59-53 with 7:15 left. Henderson celebrated by doing the gator chomp at Florida fans before heading to the bench for a timeout.
The Gators got within two a couple times down the stretch, the last at 65-63 when Rosario drove to the basket for a layup with 35.4 seconds left. Casey Prather stole the ball from Henderson with 22.3 seconds left, and Florida coach Billy Donovan called a timeout.
Erik Murphy missed an 8-foot jump hook over Buckner with 8.6 seconds left, and Holloway grabbed his 10th rebound. He hit a free throw for the final margin setting up the Gators' last chance.