Rebs Advance in NIT
What in the world? Where did Rodney Jones come from? Interesting he played very few minutes all year and had a great performance tonight for the Rebs. Having to get going and motivated for an NIT has to be pretty hard for these guys, but they will live to play another day.
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) – Ole Miss reserve guard Rodney Jones had no expectations of playing a critical role in Wednesday’s 83-68 win over UC Santa Barbara in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament.
Jones, who played only 20 minutes in the regular season, turned in 22 minutes of brilliant defense against Alex Harris, the Co-Player of the Year in the Big West Conference.
The unexpected defensive contribution pushed the Rebels (22-10) into the quarterfinals Monday against the Nebraska-Charlotte winner. The loss finished UCSB, making their first NIT appearance in five years, to 23-9.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, without the services of starting guard Eniel Polynice, sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, turned to Jones after the opening five minutes. By that time, the Gauchos had a 17-6 lead and Harris had connected on his first three shots from the field.
“My role is definitely defense and I tried to provide energy,” Jones said. “I just tried to lock down the guy I guarded.”
Harris finished with 20 points, but managed only 2-of-11 from the field against Jones and scored most of those points after the Rebels had built a double-digit lead in the final 15 minutes of play.
“Rodney Jones is a winner and he really brought something that our team really lacked, especially with Polynice out,” Kennedy said. “The game began to turn around for us and he had a lot to do with that.”