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Rebels' crawling pace stymies UF

Bubble team Ole Miss holds Gators to fewest points under Billy Donovan in 68-51 upset.

©Associated Press
February 17, 2002

OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi slowed the tempo, frustrating a quick and high-scoring Florida squad.

Aaron Harper scored 18 as Ole Miss gave its postseason resume a big boost by defeating No. 6 Florida 68-51 Saturday.

The Rebels' best shot at beating the deeper and more athletic Gators was to make it an ugly game, and that's what they did.

Ole Miss snarled the highest-scoring offense in the SEC, holding the Gators to their fewest points in six seasons under coach Billy Donovan.

"They're an 80-, 90-point scoring team. We know we're not going to get into a race with them," Ole Miss guard David Sanders said. "We wanted to try to slow them down and make them work for everything they got. We tried to make them play our style of ball."

Matt Bonner was a one-man gang for the usually balanced Gators. Bonner had 19 points and eight rebounds and shot 7-for-11 from the field as the Gators shot 29 percent.

Udonis Haslem and Brett Nelson were nonfactors. Nelson, who Donovan said was battling the flu, was shut out and missed all nine of his shots.

Haslem scored 14 but was 3-for-10 from the floor and in foul trouble most of the game.

"We haven't been dominated physically like this since my first year when we started three walk-ons," Donovan said.

Most of the Rebels' points came from behind the 3-point arc or at the free-throw line. Ole Miss made 10 of 24 3-pointers and 22 of 27 free throws.

Harper hit four 3-pointers. Sanders had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and his defense was largely responsible for Nelson's first scoreless game in more than two years.

Justin Reed had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Ole Miss, including a 3-pointer with 2:38 left to put the Rebels up 57-46.

Moments later, Harper scooped a Florida turnover and threw down a dunk that brought a thunderous cheer from the sellout crowd. From there, the Rebels cruised to their first victory over a Top 10 team this season.

Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes called it the second-biggest win of his four-year tenure, ranking only behind the Rebels' second-round NCAA victory over Notre Dame last season.

Having lost three of four going in, Ole Miss decided to try something different: red uniforms instead of traditional white at home.

Sanders called them the Rebels' big-game uniforms. The last time they wore them was against Memphis this season, a game they also won.

The Rebels had a new look but a familiar strategy. They slowed the game on the run-and-gun Gators, milking the shot clock on nearly every possession and playing tight man-to-man defense.

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