Bliss' OT bank shot lifts Georgia over Rebels

Dave Bliss banked in a shot with 0.4 seconds left in overtime, giving Georgia a 97-95 victory over Mississippi in the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday night and perhaps ruining the Rebels' hopes of getting into the NCAA tournament.

Georgia (14-16) also gave a much-needed victory to embattled coach Dennis Felton, whose future is being questioned after the Bulldogs finished last in the SEC East, closing the regular season with a 76-62 loss to the Rebels last weekend.

This one was much closer.

Ole Miss (21-10) sent the game to overtime when David Huertas was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws, and the Rebels looked to have forced another extra period when Chris Warren sank three after a virtually identical foul with 5.5 seconds left in OT.

But Georgia inbounded the ball to Corey Butler, who had fouled Warren. The walk-on guard made up for his blunder by driving nearly the length of the court before dumping the ball off to Bliss for an open 10-footer. He banked it in softly off the glass, sending the Bulldogs on to face Kentucky in the quarterfinals Friday night.

Huertas scored 29 points, connecting on 7 of 11 from 3-point range to help the Rebels rally from a 13-point deficit in the second half. Dwayne Curtis added 26 for Ole Miss.

But Terrance Woodbury scored 25 points, Sundiata Gaines added 22 and Georgia put another win on Felton's shaky resume, perhaps helping his case when athletic director Damon Evans decides on whether to bring the coach back for a sixth season.

Georgia appeared to be in control when Gaines hit two free throws for a 63-50 lead with 12:58 remaining in regulation. Led by Huertas, the Rebels bounced back to outscore the Bulldogs 18-2 over the next 4 1/2 minutes for a 68-65 lead.

The sophomore guard from Puerto Rico accounted for 12 of the points on four 3-pointers, the last of which hit the rim, bounced off the backboard, hit the rim again and dropped through- the ultimate shooter's roll.

Georgia withstood the Ole Miss run and appeared to have the game back in hand when Billy Humphrey hit a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left to make it 81-76.

Huertas hit another 3, and he got the ball back after Gaines missed a free throw with 15.5 seconds to go. With his team trailing 84-81, Huertas went up for a shot behind the arc and drew the foul from Humphrey, then calmly stepped to the line and swished three straight free throws.

The Bulldogs had a chance to win in regulation, but failed to get off a shot in time.

Ole Miss broke out to a four-point lead in overtime and appeared to be in good shape to add another win to its record, which certainly would have boosted its chances of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. But the Rebels couldn't hold on.

Georgia reclaimed the lead and went up 95-92 when Gaines sank two free throws with 10.1 seconds left. In a replay of regulation, Warren sped down the court, went up for the 3-pointer, leaned into Butler and drew the foul. Three straight free throws tied it again, but Butler got a chance to redeem himself.

He did, driving past most of the Rebels' defense to find himself with only Curtis standing between in the way. The defender committed to the guy with the ball, and Butler calmly dumped it to Bliss for the winning shot.


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