"I thought maybe the defender would grab my arm," said Modica, who led the Razorbacks with 20 points. "He didn't. But coach (Stan) Heath didn't say anything. He knows I'm going to take a bad shot every once in awhile."
Modica and his teammates did little else wrong in this game, as 18,121 fans in Bud Walton Arena looked on.
"I thought Modica played a terrific game," Heath said. "He did a lot of things at both ends."
Arkansas (14-5, 3-3 in the Southwest Conference) jumped to second among SEC teams in overall wins behind Florida, and gained some confidence for its CBS game against Kentucky on Sunday.
Ronnie Brewer, who had 19 points and seven rebounds for Arkansas, said, "I'm definitely ready for Kentucky. We've struggled against them in the past, but times have changed."
Heath, proud of the way his team defended for 40 minutes against Ole Miss, said, "Winning at Kentucky will be difficult, but we have the team that I think is capable of doing it."
Darian Townes, who scored 13 points for Arkansas including two quick buckets down the stretch, said Heath challenged the Hogs at halftime -- when they led 36-21 -- not to let Ole Miss back into the game.
The Rebels (13-5, 3-2 SEC) tried, creeping within 46-36 with 7:26 to go, but Brewer made two free throws and Townes scored twice inside to restore order.
"I think that's a sign we're growing up," Modica said. "We wanted to maintain a double-digit lead."
Ole Miss actually led 17-14 midway through the first half before Dontell Jefferson's emphatic block of a Bam Doyne shot signaled a 16-0 Arkansas run.
"Dontell really got us hyped up with that big-time block," Modica said. "He threw the dude's shot into the bleachers and that fueled the party we had in the first half."
Steven Hill's dunk on a Charles Thomas pass tied the score 19-19, and Thomas' spinning move on a fast break set up his own short jumper for a 21-19 lead.
"I thought Charles gave us a lot of energy off the bench again tonight," Heath said. "And Steven was a big reason our defense was very strong."
Hill blocked five shots, including a point-blank effort by Jermey Parnell, not long after Brewer had led Modica perfectly on a fast-break feed for a 25-19 UA lead.
"We've talked for two days about getting more points in transition," Heath said, "and tonight we did."
Officially, Arkansas led Ole Miss 10-2 in fast-break points. Unofficially, it felt like more than that.
Clarence Sanders, a reserve guard, led Ole Miss with 12 points.
Dwayne Curtis had 10 points and 10 rebounds as Ole Miss outrebounded Arkansas 35-29, but Curtis had scored 17 or more points in his seven previous games.
Rod Barnes, Ole Miss' coach who is now 3-4 against Heath, said his team played well for the first 10 minutes but had trouble with Arkansas' zone after that.
"Arkansas did what it took to win," Barnes said. "Brewer and Jefferson are long, and they made it hard to get inside against their zone. They pushed us out and we didn't get in the gaps enough."
Arkansas shot 53.8 percent while holding Ole Miss to 40 percent shooting.
Modica was 8 of 14, running the floor well and making 2 of 4 3-pointers.
"Luckily, I made some great reads off screens," he said. "I think we played very loose tonight and with energy. I'm just glad we didn't let them back in the game like we've done in the past."
Modica started laughing when someone asked if he felt more comfortable in the paint now.
"Man, I'm really confident if I see open space anywhere," he said. "But it's a long season and this was just one game. We have to make sure we don't get too confident."
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