ATHENS, Ga. -- No one was open. So Eniel Polynice decided to gamble.
Polynice scored off an inbounds pass to himself with 11.3 seconds remaining, and Mississippi (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) handed Georgia another tough loss, 80-76 Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs had several chances to reclaim the lead in a seesaw second half before Ole Miss (13-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) finished it off with Polynice's daring play, which could have been a major blunder.
Except it worked.
"You just use your instincts and take a chance," Polynice said. "Basketball is about taking chances. You do what you have to and look back with no regrets."
Georgia swatted the ball out of bounds under the basket with 14.6 seconds left. On the inbounds, Polynice threw it off Trey Thompkins' back, grabbed the deflection and muscled up for the shot that gave the Rebels a two-possession lead.
"If he had messed that up, coach would have been saying, 'What were you thinking?'" teammate Zach Graham said. "But it worked out well."
While it wasn't what coach Andy Kennedy had in mind in the closing seconds of a tight game, his assistants had talked about just such a move in practice when the opponent is double-teaming the intended inbounds target.
"I was thinking to myself, 'You have to be kidding,'" a relieved Kennedy said. "Our coaches were yelling because [Thompkins] looked confused. [Polynice] saw they were face-guarding [Terrico White], so he made a pretty smart play."
Georgia (8-7, 0-2) finished off a stretch of three straight games against Top 25 opponents with its second loss in a row. Last week, the Bulldogs upset Georgia Tech and gave Kentucky a major scare before losing 76-68 on Saturday.
"I thought we had an emotional hangover from the Kentucky game," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "We got some energy back and made it a battle, but you have to give Ole Miss credit because we had a terrible time guarding them."
Of course, no one plans to guard the guy throwing the ball in.
"What a crazy way to end the game," Graham said. "It ended up in the bucket, and that's all that matters."
Thompkins scored 21 points and the Bulldogs pounded the boards, giving themselves plenty of chances in the final two minutes. They just couldn't convert.
Down 77-76, Thompkins missed on an inside move. Jeremy Price grabbed the rebound but rimmed out the putback. After Murphy Holloway missed two free throws for Ole Miss, Ricky McPhee pumped up a 3-pointer. Another miss. Price battled inside to grab another offensive rebound, but his follow missed the mark again.
After Holloway made a free throw to stretch Ole Miss' lead to 78-76, Dustin Ware had an open 3 from straight on. The shot spun out, and the Rebels yanked down the rebound this time. Finally, they put the Bulldogs away, thanks to Polynice's gutsy move.
Ole Miss avoided an 0-2 start in conference play, bouncing back from an 80-75 loss to rival Mississippi State at home last weekend. Good thing the Rebels won in regulation; Reginald Buckner fouled out and two other players finished with four fouls.
Georgia scored the first five points of the game and led nearly the entire first half. Ole Miss finally took its first lead, 41-40, on Warren's 3-pointer with 1:41 left, but the Bulldogs were up 43-42 at the break.
The Rebels looked as though they might pull away, racing out to the biggest lead of the game when Buckner's free throw made it 56-49 with 13:09 remaining. But Georgia didn't fold, and it was close the rest of the way. There were eight lead changes and one tie over the final 9 1/2 minutes.
Travis Leslie had 17 points and McPhee 15 for the Bulldogs.