Ole Miss scored 62 points in the second half last night to dig its way out of a hole and into the big bracket, on the first day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. At the half, the Rebels were 17 points behind BYU — which had pulled off its own miracle comeback just three years ago.
BYU suffered the loss in Dayton, where it had made a historic 25-point comeback in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
The result, along with Hampton's win over Manhattan, finalizes half of the NCAA's men's playoff bracket, with two more "play-in" games slated for Wednesday.
NPR's Tom Goldman reports:
"The so-called First Four — two games yesterday and two today, all in Dayton, Ohio — often are devalued since the teams are the last chosen for the tournament and have to win just to get into the main draw. But Ole Miss and BYU put on the kind of offensive show that's rare in the current era of college basketball.
"Down 17 at halftime, Ole Miss stormed back, led by junior guard Stefan Moody, and won 94-to-90. Earlier, the Hampton Pirates, from Virginia, beat Manhattan, 74-64 — and lucky Hampton now gets to play undefeated and overall No. 1 seed Kentucky."
Before Hampton played its game Monday, coach Edward Joyner Jr. said that if his team were to advance to play against Kentucky on Thursday, he "had to have Jesus on speed-dial" to give them a chance.
Joyner then mimicked a phone call to Jesus, in which the line seemingly went silent.
"Hello? Hello?" he said, holding up his phone.
Joyner then added, "We're going to go try to play. We're going to go compete. ... They're a great team, and we know that. But it is what it is. We're happy to be here."
Ole Miss will next face Xavier in a game that'll be played in Jacksonville, Fla. The First Four portion of the tournament continues Wednesday, with Robert Morris playing North Florida at 6:40 p.m. ET and Boise State playing Dayton at 9:10 p.m. ET.