OXFORD, Miss. – It was Senior Day at Ole Miss on Saturday and the gifts were coming in threes.
Chris Warren poured in 24 points and 9 assists and fellow senior Zach Graham 15 points as the Rebels buried a school-record tying 14 3-pointers while downing Arkansas 84-74 before an announced crowd of 8,053 fans at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Rotnei Clarke had a game-high 26 points while becoming the all-time leading 3-pointer shooter for the Razorbacks (18-12, 7-9), who knocked down 10 3-pointers of their own and rallied from 15 down to 54-53 at one point.
"I thought we battled and hung in there and gave ourselves a chance," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "But defensively we just weren't good enough tonight to pull it off."
Graham was 5-of-6 from 3-point range and Warren 4-of-7 as the two seniors went out in style and the Rebels (19-12, 7-9) clinched the Western Division's third seed in next week's SEC Tournament.
"Zach and Chris have been the steady guys for us and it was great to see them go out and play like that on Senior Day," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It was a big win for them and a big win for our team. Now we'll see if we can't go play that way in the tournament for a few days."
The Rebels will play South Carolina Thursday at 2:30 p.m in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta while Arkansas falls to the West fourth seed and will face Kentucky, Vanderbilt or Georgia at 6:30 p.m. that same day.
The loss was Arkansas' second in a row, meant the Razorbacks had a tough last week after winning four of their previous five contests.
It has led to a lot of speculation about the Pelphrey's job security.
"I am the head coach at Arkansas and we are getting ready for the SEC Tournament," Pelphrey said.
"Obviously I have been in this situation before in terms of building a program and I believe in what we are doing," Pelphrey added. "To me, anyway, it is evident how close we are to winning 4 or 5 more games this season and how that would be putting a totally different spin on everything.
"I think we see some of our players getting better, see who we have been able to recruit, success of our guys on the floor, these are things that I know to be truths in a bigger picture that we are working on," Pelphrey continued. "I know what I am looking for and know what needs to be done."
Clarke was 5-of-7 from 3-point range and surpassed former Arkansas star and current Razorback support staff member Scotty Thurman.
He wanted to talk more about his embattled head coach than his accomplishments after the game.
"It (speculation) doesn't affect us," Clarke said. "I've got his back. He is a great coach and a great person and I am always going to be behind him and supporting him every day."
Marshawn Powell added 14 points and 6 rebounds while Julysess Nobles had all 13 of his points before halftime as Arkansas.
Terrence Henry added 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks, Dundrecous Nelson 10 and Reginald Buckner 9 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocks for Ole Miss.
"When we get 22, 12 and 10 from those two guys (Henry and Buckner), we're pretty good," Kennedy said.
That means that Buckner had 15 blocks against Arkansas this season as he had 8 in the Rebels' 69-60 win in Fayetteville back on Feb. 5th.
"That is a career for some," said Pelphrey, who had 51 swats in his Kentucky days. "…He certainly had maybe the biggest impact in both of the games. What a weapon."
The Razorbacks found themselves down 41-26 with 4:47 left in the first half, but got it back to 43-37 by halftime.
Clarke and Mardracus Wade hit consecutive 3-pointers to cut it to 53-52 at the 14:43 mark, but the Rebels raced away after that with some more 3-pointers.
Ole Miss had a 21-5 run to give itself a 74-57 cushion coming down the stretch.
"At that point, I didn't think either team had control, but we got a few stops, hit some shots and closed it out strong," Kennedy said.
That obviously was not the case with Arkansas.
"We fought and scratched and I thought we were really in position to take control there a little bit, but we spent a lot of energy getting back into it," Pelphrey said. "I thought our guys fought all night long, but it can be demoralizing when three points shots like that are just falling in."
During that stretch, Arkansas did not have a single field goal for over eight minutes.
"I don't remember a lot of that, but it was just probably a lack of execution," Clarke said. "I felt like we got some shots, we just didn't hit them. I know I had some shots and didn't hit them and we let them get some easy put-backs and dunks."
Ole Miss 84, Arkansas 74
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