Houdini has nothing on Mississippi University's women's basketball team.
Ole Miss made a 16-point Kansas University lead disappear in a flash and posted a pulsating 78-76 victory over the Jayhawks in a first-round WNIT game Sunday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
"We got complacent," KU senior Erica Hallman said of the Jayhawks' second-half swoon. "We played soft. If you're not hungry, that's what happens in March."
With 14:08 remaining, Kansas climaxed a 13-0 run by soaring to a 52-36 lead. Two minutes later, KU still led by 14, but then the wheels fell off after Ole Miss coach Carole Ross burned some ears.
"I was a little aggravated at a lot of people," Ross said. "We weren't playing with the energy we needed."
The Rebels pounded the glass, they stole the ball, they made stops and, after an 18-4 run, the score was deadlocked at 61. All in a span of about 41â2 minutes.
Once the Rebels turned on the faucet, the Jayhawks couldn't find the shut-off valve.
"We weren't going to win a track meet or a high-jump contest against them," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "We needed to make contact with them and be tough, and we didn't do that."
Nevertheless, the Jayhawks finally stemmed the tide, and the last three minutes were as tense and exciting as postseason games are supposed to be.
Armintie Price popped a jumper for her 30th and 31st points with :54 remaining to give the Rebels a 76-74 lead. But Crystal Kemp answered with a short baseline jumper at :35, and the game was deadlocked for the 10th - and last - time.
Moments later, with 18 ticks remaining, UM's Ashley Awkward drilled a semi-awkward 14-foot jumper from the right side for what proved to be the decisive basket.
Henrickson called time with :13.6 on the clock and drew up a play designed to push the ball inside to either Kemp or Marija Zinic, who had scored a career-high 17 points off the bench.
Yet the best-laid plans :
"We still had enough time," Henrickson said, "but we ended up with a busted play. I don't think that's happened all year that we didn't have people in the right spot."
So Hallman had to launch a jumper from behind the free-throw circle with about four seconds remaining. The shot rolled off, but Ole Miss lost the ball out of bounds, and Kansas had another chance.
The clock showed :01.7 - just enough time to catch and shoot.
Quickly, Hallman became free in the left corner behind the three-point line, took the inbounds pass and fired the potential game-winner as time expired. The ball flew over the rim, an air ball.
"I knew I had to rush the shot," Hallman said, "but I rushed it a little too much."
Just like that, the Jayhawks' season came to an end, and so did the college careers of Hallman, Kemp and Kaylee Brown. The trio of seniors, who have led the team in scoring all season, finished with a combined 42 points - Hallman 15, Kemp 14 and Brown 13.
"It hasn't hit me yet, but I'm sure it will," Hallman said about the abrupt end. She finished second on the school's career list in three-point goals and three-point attempts.
"I really hasn't hit me yet," Kemp said, virtually echoing Hallman. Kemp stands seventh in scoring and eighth in rebounding on the career charts.
Kansas concluded with a 17-13 record - the school's first winning season in six years - after a 12-0 start. The postseason appearance was also KU's first since 2000.
Notes: Ole Miss had 19 offensive rebounds - 17 in the second half - and had 16 second-chance points. : KU's bench outscored the Rebels' reserves, 28-8. : KU was credited with 18 assists. Hallman and Shaquina Mosley had five apiece. : Price's 31 points were the most scored against the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse this season. The 5-8 junior also had seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. : Ole Miss became the first WNIT invitee to win a road game.