NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Mississippi Rebels can breathe much easier on the edge of coach Andy Kennedy’s first NCAA tournament berth in his seventh season.
Now they are setting their sights on a Southeastern Conference tournament championship first.
Marshall Henderson scored 23 points as Mississippi beat Vanderbilt 64-52 Saturday in the SEC tournament semifinals, putting the Rebels into the title game for the first time since 2001.
“We know we made the NCAA tournament now,” Henderson said. “If we didn’t, that would the biggest snub ever ... We know we made it. We’re in the championship. We might as well win it and get us a fat ring.”
The third-seeded Rebels (25-8) came here needing wins to sharpen their postseason resume and finally reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. Now they will play No. 13 Florida, a 61-51 winner over Alabama, in Sunday’s championship game, where the winner advances to the NCAA tournament automatically.
Kennedy ticked off the Rebels’ record and 14 SEC wins, including four straight and two here in Nashville, while pointing out not many teams still are playing.