OXFORD, Miss. - Shortly after Ole Miss showed Napoleon (Dynamite) dancing on its big screen, the University of Arkansas may have experienced its Waterloo.
Londrick Nolan scored a season-high 20 points and Dwayne Curtis added 19 points and 13 rebounds as the Rebels ended a month of frustration without a win by downing the Razorbacks 73-70 before an announced crowd of 4,019 fans.
The win was not secured for Ole Miss - despite leading by nine points with two minutes left - until Jonathon Modica's 3-pointer at the buzzer rim in and out and thus kept the game from going to overtime.
"They just played hard and wanted it more than we did," Modica said. "There's no excuse for that. No excuse, but that's what happened."
Modica and Ronnie Brewer had 16 points and Eric Ferguson 15 - but only 16 of those came between themselves in the second half - for Arkansas (16-8, 5-6), who missed an opportunity to get above .500 in the league play for the first time this season.
The loss will make the Razorbacks' quest to get an NCAA tournament bid extremely difficult what with hosting Florida on Saturday, Alabama on Tuesday and then traveling to No. 8 Tennessee on Feb. 25.
"Tonight was not a good night for us," an obviously distraught Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said afterwards. "I think Ole Miss played the way we should. They showed a lot of patience and we just made too many mistakes. I am disappointed with the loss, but I'm more disappointed with the way we played. Give Ole Miss credit. They played like a team in the hunt it all. We did not."
Ole Miss head coach Rob Barnes was obviously elated in victory.
"I have to give Arkansas some credit because they didn't lay down after we had them down," Barnes said. "But I also can't say enough about our kids. They refuse to go down again. They hung in there until the end. Our kids played so hard."
Arkansas led 38-33 at halftime but went frigid in the second half and fell to 1-5 this season in true road games while contining a trend of close losses in SEC for the Razorbacks - now six by a total of 16 points.
Ole Miss outrebounded the taller UA squad 43-37 and had 38 points to the Razorbacks' 26 in the paint.
The Rebels kept Darian Townes (6 points, 1 board), Steven Hill (no points, 2 rebounds) and Charles Thomas (9 points, 5 rebounds) from taking over the game while Curtis and two Arkansas guys in Jeremy Parnell (Gosnell) and Mike Smith (Jacksonville) played physical throughout.
Curtis had one more point and one more rebound than Arkansas' four big guys combined.
"They have really good perimeter guys," Barnes said. "Guys like Modica, Thomas and (Dontell) Jefferson are really big and fast. Guys like that you have to beat on the glass. You have to shut them down in the paint."
Just minutes after Ole Miss showed movie character Napoleon Dynamite dancing on its big screen, Todd Abernathy (11 points) drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Rebels up 55-48 with 7:02 remaining.
At that point, Arkansas had scored just 10 points in the first 13 minutes of the second half after putting up 38 in the opening 20 minutes.
""We just made a lot of critical mistakes at critical times," Heath said. "They forced us to play at a hurried pace. They had a lot of second chance points. We had a lot of errors, guys in the wrong positions, bad shots and not a lot of defensive boards."
That lead grew to 63-54 when Curtis hit a pair of free throws at the 3:03 mark and Ole Miss looked like it had all but put the game away when Abernathy hit a free throw to make it 67-58 with two minutes exactly left.
But Arkansas would twice have a chance to at least tie the game in the final 30 seconds, but a turnover on one possession ended the first opportunity with 28 seconds showing.
Vincent Hunter's free throw and inside basket on the same trip got Arkansas within 71-70 with 13 seconds left, and Modica's missed shot - which came after Arkansas native Bam Doyne hit two free throws (his only points) for Ole Miss with 9.7 seconds left - went in and out.
"We did everything we could to give the game away," Barnes said, "but our guys played tough and did what they had to do to get the win."
Arkansas, which scored the first six points of the game only to see Ole Miss score 10 of the next 12, led by a half-dozen on a couple of occassions in the opening half.
The final time was when Ferguson - having his best half of the season - scored on a drive to put the Razorbacks up 28-22 with exactly five minutes left in the half.
Ole Miss would score five straight points a bit later to tie it 29-29, but failed to take the lead the next trip down court and Arkansas closed the half strongly.
Jefferson's 3-pointer that just beat the first-half buzzer sent his team into the locker room with a 38-33 advantage.
Only Modica (4-of-8), Ferguson (3-of-5) and Jefferson (2-of-2) made field goals in the first half and they combined to hit 16-of-18 free throws (Brewer 10-of-10) in a half where Arkansas made 18-of-22.
Ole Miss scored the first four points of the second half and Curtis' lay-up capped a 12-4 run to give the Rebels a 45-42 lead with 14:03 remaining.
Just 15 seconds later, Brewer picked up his third foul and until the final push it was all downhill.
The loss was certainly not what Arkansas had planned who had hoped to win a road game to have momentum going into this Saturday's game with Florida.
"But there is nothing we can do about it now, but get back to practice and get ready for Florida," Ferguson said. "It's not over yet, but we have made it a lot harder on ourselves."
Ole Miss 73, Arkansas 70
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