After destroying No. 8 Alabama at home and playing No. 2 Florida to the wire in Gainesville to start a rugged January league schedule, the University of Arkansas ran into its own version of Kryptonite once again in Oxford.
Whether it be a team coached by Nolan Richardson or Stan Heath, Ole Miss' Tad Pad has traditionally zapped the Razorbacks of their ability to win in a place where they have now lost seven of their last eight.
Despite Arkansas shooting 51 percent overall and 45 percent from 3-point range, winning the rebounding battle with a second half push, rallying from 14 points down late to take a lead, it's always something and this time it was 21 turnovers.
Dwayne Curtis, a 6-8, 290-pound center, led the Rebels poured in 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as Ole Miss built up a double digit lead in the first and then held off hard-charging Arkansas 74-72 in an extremely physical game before a crowd of 7,292.
"I think it was a heck of a football game," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said sarcastically after the game. "It was physical, it was rough, there was a lot of pushing and shoving. If that is the way the game is going to be played, than that is the way it is going to be played. We have got to man up and get the job done."
Charles Thomas scored his team's last 7 points and had a career-high 23 points while Patrick Beverley added 15 before getting injured late for the Razorbacks (12-5, 1-2), who had won four of their last five games before Saturday.
Thomas' 3-pointer with 31 seconds left gave his team a 72-71 lead to complete a comeback from a 63-49 deficit with just over 8 minutes remaining.
But Curtis hit two free throws, Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin did not get a foul call when driving the lane despite television replays showing Arkansas native Jeremy Parnell clearly hacking his arms to create a turnover and then Clarence Sanders hit 1 of 2 free throws with 9 seconds left.
The Razorbacks then had two chances to tie or win, but Ervin's miss and the inability to get a shot off with less than a second left proved fatal for the visitors.
"I think we let one get away from us," Heath said. "Even though our first half was not at the level it needed to be, we still took a lead with about 22 seconds to go and if you have a lead with 22 seconds to go – and this is the second time it has happened to us – you should be able to get a defensive stop. We had a breakdown on a ball screen again and it cost us."
Heath pointed back to the first half where Arkansas scored the first six points of the game and led 22-20 before going nearly six minutes without a field goal and allowing Ole Miss to build a lead up to 10 and then settle for a 38-30 advantage at the break.
"I was happy that we didn't quit, that we battled and fought and put ourselves in position to win," Heath said. "But first of all, I thought the first half decided a lot of what happened. We didn't play as tough physically as we needed to play. They banged us around, pushed us around and they beat us pretty good on the glass and that is why we had a deficit and we had to play catch-up.
"I thought the second half, we were back to the team that we were supposed to be," Heath added. "We were more physical on the glass, I thought we made a valiant effort to put ourselves back in position to win. I thought we then had a few mental breakdowns late in the game and we didn't do things the way we had been working on them in practice."
Sanders added fellow senior guard Todd Abernathy added 13 each for the Rebels (12-5, 1-2) – who had led midway through the second half in both of their previous league games before being unable to close them out but did so in resounding style against the Razorback.
Former Little Rock prep star Bam Doyne added 11 and Kenny Williams 8.
"They've got a monstrous schedule like we all do," Heath said. "I thought they were going to really want this game and we did not match that intensity at all. We did not match it. We did the second half, but you have got to play 40 minutes and we weren't thee in the first half."
Sonny Weems, Darian Townes, Ervin and Steven Hill all added 8 points each for Arkansas with Hill adding 6 rebounds and Townes 5.
"Our team has a small margin of error," Heath said. "We are not just going to be out to take the floor and out-talent you. We have to play with the energy and intensity level that we did in our first two (SEC) ballgames because if we don't, we are very average.
"I think we got caught up a little bit today in hearing "hey, Arkansas is pretty good, look what they did at Alabama and man they played Florida tough.' I think we got caught up listening to some of that stuff and we are not good enough to do that."
Brian Smith, son of Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith, hit a 3 that put Ole Miss up 63-49 with 8:14 left before Arkansas finally kicked it into gear.
"We knew we weren't going to be able to do it on one possession so we just had to methodically make sure we got defensive stops and we got rebounds and from there we tried to get transition baskets or – if we didn't get that – execute our offense," Heath said. "We did a good job of chipping things away and I thought Charles was a lot better in the second half and Townes was a lot better."
Both Beverley (back) and Ervin (ankle) suffered injuries late.
"I am very concerned about some my guys right now and their health," Heath said. "Patrick took a monstrous hit and we have got to get him checked out. I thought Gary got hit late in the game and fell to the ground hard, too, so we have got to figure out how these guys are physically."
Arkansas will return to action Wednesday night at 8:05 p.m. when it hosts Georgia in a game televised by ESPNU and then will host LSU on Saturday for a 2:45 game televised by CBS.
Ole Miss 74, Arkansas 72
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