Ole Miss rallies from 17 down to beat BYU in superb First Four game

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It’s entirely possible Tuesday night’s First Four headliner just gave us one of the three or four best games we’ll see in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

A pair of 11 seeds — Ole Miss and BYU — both cracked 90 points in 40 minutes and gave viewers one of the most entertaining games the First Four has ever seen.

Ole Miss scored 62 (62!!) points in the second half and rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat the Cougars, 94-90, which means the Rebels move on to play No. 6 Xavier in Jacksonville on Thursday afternoon at approximately 4:10 p.m. on TBS.

Ole Miss’ Stefan Moody went ballistic in the second half, ultimately finishing with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

Quite a turnaround for an Ole Miss team that was outscored by BYU’s Tyler Haws and Chase Fischer alone 36-32 in the first half.

BYU tried to cradle its lead — like with this sweet alley-oop from Haws to Kyle Collinsworth. Get on up.

But the Ole Miss rally was too much. The teams traded ridiculous shots and regrettable decisions down the stretch. The 184 total points were the most in an NCAA tourney game since 2012, when Kentucky and Indiana combined for 192.

“I just thought we were so tentative,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said on truTV afterward. “BYU was in control of the tempo … we wanted to try to impose our will to start the second half. We chopped it in half pretty quickly — our guys start believing, the ball starts going in, good things happen.”

This playground ball-style type of game was an antidote to anyone who’s bemoaned the state of college hoops this season.

For Haws, it’s an abrupt end to his superb career that saw him get above 2,700 career points on Tuesday night (scoring 33 v. Ole Miss) and move even higher atop the all-time on BYU scoring list. For BYU, it’s a reversal of roles. The Cougars own the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. In 2012, also at the First Four, BYU trailed Iona by 25 points but came back to beat the Gaels.

The question some will now ask of the Rebels: Is Ole Miss going to be the next VCU, La Salle or Tennessee? All of those teams previously played in the First Four and broke through to at least the Sweet 16.

It’s hard to think we’ll get 10 games wilder than this one. But 65 more get the chance. That’s what’s so exciting.

Stefan Moody went wild for Ole Miss, leading the comeback for the Rebs. (USATSI)

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