Vanderbilt's bittersweet season came crashing down around them in the second half against Ole Miss Saturday.
The Rebels showed no mercy, keeping the pedal to the metal in outscoring the Commodores 38-26 in the final 20 minutes to post a 64-52 win.
Fielding one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams Coach Kevin Stallings has had at Vanderbilt, playing three games in three days took its toll.
They shot 31.2 percent in the second half and were only 2 of 16 from 3-point range. Their legs appeared dead in the second half and Ole Miss took advantage of having played only one game before the semifinal game.
"Obviously when you live by the jump shot, sometimes you're going to die by the jump shot,'' Stallings said. "But when the jump shot is your best and sometimes only option, then you roll with it.''
Coming off an impressive performance the previous night in beating Kentucky, Vanderbilt shooters didn't have the touch they had 24 hours earlier. Shots that fell against Kentucky were off target against Ole Miss.
"Again, you don't want to sit up here and sound like you're making excuses, because we have no excuses. Mississippi played better than we did,'' Stallings said.
"When you look at guy after guy, after guy, after guy, the same thing seemed to be going on. We talked about it as a staff at halftime. We had two, three guys that were just a quart low on energy.''
Vandy starter Rod Odom missed 11 of his 14 shots and seven of eight from the 3-point stripe.
"I just wasn't feeling it,'' Odom said. "One miss turned into two and things kind of got rough for me. I wouldn't say I felt any different out there, I just couldn't get them to go down.''
While it was Vanderbilt's final game, Ole Miss is now in the NCAA Tournament picture with a 25-8 season record and 14 wins against SEC teams. They can secure an automatic bid Sunday by beating top-seed Florida Sunday at Bridgestone Arena.
Vanderbilt finished 16-17 after a horrid start where it lost to Marist 50-33, got blown out by Oregon, 74-48, and suffered another 33-point production in a 56-33 loss to Arkansas.
After losing to Tennessee on Feb. 13, the Commodores started to show more promise. They won seven of their next nine games down the stretch before Saturday's final chapter.
Vanderbilt led by nine points in the first half, but trailed by as many as 18 in the second half. It was obvious by watching some of their missed shots fall short that fatigue played a part in their inability to keep pace. It was a painful learning experience, one that should give them all the incentive needed to improve and grow as a team in the off-season.
Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy recognized his team was gaining control in the second half.
"I thought early (Vanderbilt) came out with a lot of excitement. They are in their home city. I thought they had some energy in the building behind them. They came out with pop in their step,'' Kenndey said.
"Vanderbilt didn't play the Sisters of the Poor. They had beat Arkansas and Kentucky. That takes a lot of energy. … I wanted them to have to make jump shots. And jump shots usually go when your legs go and that was the case for us.''
Vanderbilt ran out of gas, but Ole Miss would not allow the Commodores to get near a service station.
It was a two-edged sword that Vanderbilt would not survive.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at email@example.com.
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