KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- Hampered by a hip injury, Rahim Lockhart was good enough to will Mississippi to a first-round NCAA Tournament win.
Lockhart hit the go-ahead free throw and had a key defensive strip in the closing seconds as the third-seeded Rebels posted a 72-70 victory over Iona in a Midwest Region game at Kemper Arena.
Participating in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years, Mississippi (26-7) will meet Notre Dame in the second round on Sunday.
Iona (22-11), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament champion, lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year under coach Jeff Ruland.
Mississippi's leading scorer and rebounder, the 6-8, 265-pound Lockhart was limited to 15 minutes. He suffered the injury when Iona center Nakiea Miller crashed into him while driving to the basket 5:22 into the game. Lockhart did not play the rest of the half, but came back in the second and made his presence felt down the stretch and finished with 12 points.
"I felt stiffness in my legs throughout the second half, but I just tried to battle through it," Lockhart said. "We fought too hard to get to this point to stop now because of an injury." However, it was sophomore guard Emmanuel Wade who led the Rebels with a career high-tying 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining which tied the game at 70-70.
"I'm not really sure what happened when I made the 3-pointer late in the game," Wade said. "I was just open and took the shot." Mississippi took the lead for good when Lockhart, a 46-percent free-throw shooter, hit 1-of-2 from the line with 51 seconds left.
After Earl Johnson and Leland Norris missed 3-point attempts for Iona, Jason Harrison, an 84-percent free-throw shooter, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for Mississippi with 32 seconds left.
On Iona's ensuing possession, Johnson dribbled out most of the clock before he penetrated and dished back to Courtney Fields, who drove aggressively into the lane and had the ball knocked away by Lockhart. Jason Holmes picked up the loose ball and was fouled with 1.8 seconds left.
"We had decided we weren't going to let Johnson win the game for them," Mississippi coach Rod Barnes said. "He is a very aggressive and good point guard. We were not going to let their best perimeter player step up and take advantage.
After Holmes made 1-of-2 free throws for Iona, Norris was short on a heave from beyond midcourt.
Miller led Iona with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots, but fouled out with 51 seconds left while battling for a rebound with Lockhart.
"I tried to hold on to the rebound. I guess I fouled him," Miller said of his fifth foul. "I didn't think they were going to call it. When you're in the game and have a chance to win, it's definitely harder than getting blown out." Johnson had 15 points, but was just 5-of-14 from the field and missed all six of his 3-point attempts.
Mississippi's bench outscored Iona's reserves, 36-21. Wade led the way with 19 and Aaron Harper added 10.
Ironically, Mississippi's first NCAA Tournament win in 1999 came by an identical 72-70 score over Villanova. The Rebels are 2-4 overall in tournament play and have never advanced past the second round.
The Gaels slipped to 1-7 in NCAA play, with the one win being an 84-78 victory over Holy Cross in 1980 when Ruland was the star player.
"This was a tremendous game and I wish them (Mississippi) success on Sunday," Ruland said. "I am very proud of my coaching staff, the players, and especially, my seniors. They put forth a lot of effort and I think it says a lot for their character." Mississippi and Iona met for the first time, although 44 years ago the schools were scheduled to play in the All-American City Basketball Tournament in Owensboro, Kentucky. But with Mississippi still in the throes of segregation and Iona starting a black player -- Stanley Hill -- Mississippi Gov. James. P. Coleman ordered Rebels coach Bonnie "Country" Graham not to allow his team to take the court.
Mississippi forfeited the game. Iona lists it as a 2-0 victory, while the Rebels do not include the result in their records.
Hill was in attendance for Friday's game which was close most of the way.
Johnson and Miller combined for 10 points as Iona raced to a 12-4 lead in the first 4 1/2 minutes. But Mississippi responded with a 9-0 run as Wade connected on a 3-pointer and a layup.
Mississippi led by as many as five, 21-16, on a layup by Holmes with 9:48 left.
Dyree Wilson converted a 3-point play and two layups as Iona went on a 9-2 run to take a 25-23 lead.
The Gaels increased the advantage to 33-28 on a 3-pointer by Norris and a pair of free throws by Maceo Wofford.
A 3-pointer by Harper and a pair of free throws by David Saunders tied the game at 35-35, but Norris hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in the half to give Iona the lead at intermission.
Neither team led by more than four points in the second half.