by RENALDO DORSETT
One of the “First Four” and the first Bahamian to compete in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Dwight Coleby and the Ole Miss Rebels got “March Madness” off to an exciting start with an epic comeback win.
In a matchup of 11 seeds, the Rebels overcame a 17 point half-time deficit to defeat the Brigham Young University Cougars, 94-90, Tuesday night at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
Coleby came off the bench for a productive 14 minute stretch where he added three points, seven rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot.
His lone field goal of the game, a dunk at the 14:07 mark in the second half, cut the Cougars deficit to single digits for the first time in over 13 minutes.
The Rebels will advance to face the Xavier Musketeers, the no. 6 seed in the West region, today at 4:10pm local time, at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
The game will be broadcast live on TBS.
Coleby’s production off the bench was a major contributing factor in Ole Miss grabbing16 offensive rebounds to only six for BYU, resulting in 16 second-chance points to only four for the Cougars.
Two of his offensive rebounds eventually led to made jumpers from Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers.
The Rebels erupted for 62 points in the second half, after trailing 49-32 at the break.
It was the most points scored in the second half of a NCAA tournament game since 2007.
They shot 30 percent in the first half and 60 in the second to finish the game at 45 percent.
It was the first 17-plus point deficit over come in the tournament since Ohio State also overcame a 17 point deficit in 2007 to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers.
It will be their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last three seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy and the school has a record of 5-7 in the event.
“We wanted to show that we belonged here,” Kennedy said in a press release issued on the Rebels athletic website, “I challenged our guys to show that we are worthy of this selection. There are a lot of quality teams in college basketball that don’t have this opportunity, so let’s go show that we’re worthy, and we did that.”
Ole Miss’ last appearance came in 2013 in the West Region in Kansas City, where the No. 12-seeded Rebels knocked off No. 5 Wisconsin.
Coleby and the Rebels were firmly on the bubble following an early exit in the SEC tournament, but the committee granted them a postseason reprieve.
They were named the No.11 seed and were one of eight teams to take part in the opening playoff round as the field dwindles from 68 to the traditional 64.
Despite the SEC tournament loss Ole Miss was viewed favourably because of their level of competition all season.
Ole Miss’ strength of schedule ranked 28th in the nation, according to ESPN.com. The Rebels have played 14 games against teams in ESPN.com’s top 50 basketball power index, posting a 6-8 mark.