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March 13, 2012

Disappointed Rebels move on to NIT

OXFORD, Miss. -- Terrance Henry wanted to spend today in Dayton, Ohio.

The Ole Miss senior forward sat in front of his television Sunday afternoon and hoped against hope the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee would grant the Rebels a reprieve of sorts.

"I was watching and hoping we got one of those play-in games," Henry said. "Unfortunately, it didn't come up."

Instead, the selection show ended with 68 teams on the bracket and none of them named Mississippi.

"It kind of hit me hard," Henry said.

It hit Andy Kennedy hard, too, though the Ole Miss coach was far more upset for Henry than he was for himself.

"For him to leave and his career to end without him ever experiencing the NCAA tournament is very disappointing for me," Kennedy said.

Henry's consolation was a return trip to the NIT. The Rebels (20-13) will face Illinois State (20-13) Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at Tad Smith Coliseum. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Cleveland State-Stanford game in the second round next week. The rest of the Rebels' eight-team NIT bracket includes Arizona, Bucknell, Oral Roberts and Nevada. The NIT final four will be held March 27 and 29 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

"We're going to have to try to make the best of it," Henry said. "It's pretty hard, but we've just go to man up and accept our postseason and play. Nobody wants to be in the NIT, but it's still postseason and you're still one of the few teams still playing right now. We just have to be happy that we're still playing. …It's better than sitting at home and watching basketball on TV."

Kennedy was suffering from a tight lower back on Monday a day after the Rebels' somber 5 -hour bus ride back from New Orleans. That put the Rebels' boss in the training room with several of his banged-up players.

"Everybody's disappointed because we didn't realize our goal," Kennedy said. "Kids though, at the end of the day, the things that allowed them to put on an SEC uniform, the things that allowed them to get into an SEC locker room, you would hope that competitive spirit would emerge and that they would want to continue to play basketball."

Kennedy said Monday he believed the Rebels' 1-7 mark against top-50 RPI teams was their downfall. Ole Miss made a late charge, winning five straight games, including a home win over Alabama and an overtime win over Tennessee in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.

"I know we gave ourselves a chance," Kennedy said. "For us to come up short is obviously disappointing. I'm looking at it like there's 100 teams in Division I college basketball out of 334 that get the opportunity to move forward and my hope is our guys, once they're through the disappointment, will embrace the next challenge."

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