Published 12:00 am Friday, March 28, 2008

Rebels head to NIT Finals

The Ole Miss Rebel basketball team had to fight to the end and five more minutes in overtime to defeat Nebraska 85-75 on Monday night at the Tad Smith Coliseum, advancing them to the quarterfinals in the NIT.

The Rebels traveled to Blacksburg Virginia to take on Virginia Tech on Wednesday night and defeated the Hokies 81-72 to advance to the final four of the NIT in New York. This was their first trip to the NIT quarterfinals since 2000.

The NIT will be played in Madison Square Garden. Semifinals are Tuesday, April 1 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

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The championship is Thursday, April 3 at 7 p.m.

Ole Miss will play Ohio State in the first round.

Virginia Tech tore UAB apart 75-49 on Monday night in front of their home crowd at the Cassell Coliseum to host the next round of the NIT. They are 14-2 this season at home and that was going to be a disadvantage with the Rebels as they have struggled to win on the road this season with a 2-7 record.

But Coach Andy Kennedy said that was exactly the challenge his team needed.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Kennedy on Monday night.  “The one obstacle this team failed to clear consistently was winning on the road. So I think this is a perfect way to take the next step. If we can win on the road, we’ve shown that we’ve matured.”

The Rebels have been on a winning streak lately, winning five of their last six games, including a road game against Georgia.

On Monday night, the Rebels shot 52.5 percent on the field, 70 percent on free throws, and 50 percent from the 3 point range.         

Three starters shot in double digits and freshmen Zach Graham came off the bench adding 14 points.

At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 70. The Rebels out scored the Cornhuskers 15-5 in overtime to get the victory.

In overtime, Graham scored 10 of his 14 points.