Unbeaten Ole Miss rejects UCF’s late bid

Allen Flanigan’s blocked shot in the final second kept Ole Miss as part of an elite group in the Rebels’ 70-68 victory over host UCF on Sunday afternoon in Orlando, Florida.

One of seven unbeaten schools after Princeton lost earlier in the day, Ole Miss (9-0) led by six with 52 seconds left, but UCF (6-3) cut it to one on a 3-pointer by Marchelus Avery and two free throws by Shemarri Allen (14 points).

After Ole Miss moved back ahead by three, Darius Johnson (game-high 25 points) made one foul shot with 2.2 seconds left to cut it to two then forced a steal under the hoop on Flanigan’s inbounds pass.

Flanigan blocked Jaylin Sellers’ layup and time ran out on UCF as Avery canned a tying putback.

Flanigan totaled 18 points, seven rebounds and five steals. TJ Caldwell had 14 points, while Matthew Murrell had 12 and Jaylen Murray 10.

Jamarion Sharp swatted one shot, bringing his career total to 300 blocked shots. The 7-foot-5 center became the 112th player in NCAA history to reach the milestone.

Ole Miss shot 44.4 percent from the field, while UCF hit just 36.8 percent of its tries.

The Knights outrebound the Rebels 39-29.

Sellers, UCF’s leading scorer at nearly 21 points per game, added 11 points and four steals. Omar Payne had 10 rebounds and two blocks. Johnson had five steals.

Inside the contest’s first 10 minutes, Johnson poured in 11 of his team’s points in an 18-all tie. The guard sank four of his seven shots, two from long range, as the new Big 12 member stood toe-to-toe with the SEC squad.

Ole Miss went on a 7-0 run over a 1:26 span, getting layups from Austin Nunez and Flanigan plus a trey from Murrell, while UCF failed to score from the field over 4:31. That put the Rebels’ lead at 30-23.

Ole Miss held a 37-30 halftime advantage, despite getting just three points in six minutes from Murray, who picked up two early fouls a game after scoring a career-high 26 points.

Johnson finished the half with 15 of his squad’s 30 points.

In the second, Avery capped a 7-0 run with a deep ball from the left wing at 10:52 for UCF’s first lead of the half, 46-45.

The Knights have dropped four of the five career meetings between the schools.