OXFORD, MS. – Guess somebody got the corners of the bread cut off and their chicken nuggets cut up one more time.
Despite having their road manhood questioned by their head coach John Pelphrey, the Razorbacks went out and – while playing better than they did at Alabama last Wednesday - lost their fifth straight road game on Tuesday night.
Dwayne Curtis had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Florida transfer David Huertas 19 points, Eniel Polynice 12 and Chris Warren 10 as Ole Miss whipped the University of Arkansas 81-72 on its Senior Night before 8,168 fans at Tad Smith Coliseum.
"I did think there were timely toughness plays that we lost," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "That has happened to us this year before and I kind of felt like it happened again."
Patrick Beverley had 19, Darian Townes 18 and Gary Ervin 14 to lead Arkansas (19-10, 8-7), who is 14-1 at home and 3-2 at neutral sites this season, but just 2-7 in road games this season.
The Razorbacks lost despite having 29 field goals to the Rebels' 28, 16 assists to just 9 turnovers, 14 offensive rebounds while allowing 12 - but were just 7of-9 from the free throw line while
"I don't think by any stretch of the imagination did we dog it because we played some semblence of basketball," Pelphrey said. "We made more shots than they did, we got more offensive rebounds than they did, we had a positive assist-turnover ratio, under 10 (turnovers for the game).
"But I am not interested in these guys playing to their potential," Pelphrey added. "I want them to play above it. That's my challenge to them."
Ole Miss (20-9, 6-9), who had lost 75-69 to Arkansas in Fayetteville earlier this season and is now 14-2 at home and 1-7 on the road, kept its slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive with the win.
"We know where we are - our backs are solidly against the wall," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We know we have to protect our home court and if we had done that a few other times we wouldn't be in this position."
Sonny Weems, the Razorbacks' leading scorer at 16 points a game, had just 5 points and struggled shooting throughout the night in a game that pit two teams which were in the Top 25 early in the season.
Weems was 2-of-11 from the field, with his first points came on a 3-pointer with 3:57 left in the game.
"They did a good job on him and gave him a lot of attention," Pelphrey said. "Sonny didn't have one of his better nights. I think when somebody loses their leading scorer like that it's pretty difficult, but even with that being said we had a chance to make some plays, somebody had those chances, but we just didn't make those plays."
Kennedy noted that the Ole Miss defense knew it had to focus on Weems more than anyone else.
"We wanted to be ver conscious of him," Kennedy said. "He leads them in shots by a large margin, almost 100, so it was important not to give him a decent look. We wanted to contest everything."
The Rebels celebrated their win by going around and shaking hands with the fans - including former Arkansas and current Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt - at the end of the contest.
Curtis, who has had several great games against Arkansas throughout his career, had his 15 double-double this season on Tuesday night.
"It was Senior Night so I just had to leave it all out on the court," Curtis said. "I am just playing aggressive. That was what Coach told me to do. Go be aggressive."
In most NCAA Tournament projections, Arkansas is currently in the field of 65, but Pelphrey knows that is very tentative.
"All we have to do is take care of our business, something we can't seem to do on the road," Pelphrey said. "It's extremely disappointing and not something this program will accept in the future."
The Razorbacks trailed by 12 in the first half, but did cut their margin to 39-37 just seconds into the second half.
But Ole Miss responded by beating back Arkansas and had stormed back ahead 56-45 on Curtis' lay-up with 11:58 left in the game.
It grew to 66-51 when Huertas completed a old-fashioned 3-point play with 7:37 left in the game.
Arkansas' last hurrah came when Beverley hit two free throws to make it 73-68 with 1:35 left in the game, but he missed two 3-pointers that could have cut it to a one-possession game in the 30 seconds.
"It was a five-point game with a 3 in the air," Pelphrey said. "We had our chances, but just didn't play well enough to get it done."
Brian Smith, the son of former Kentucky and current Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith (who was in the crowd), hit a free throw with 55.8 seconds left that made it 75-68.
The game was nationally televised by ESPN, but the network did not get the contest on air until 2 minutes were left in the first half because of overtime in its earlier Purdue-Ohio State telecast.
Arkansas led early, but a 10-0 spurt by Ole Miss – capped by a Warren lay-up – pushed the Rebels ahead 18-11 and forced a Razorback timeout with exactly 13 minutes left in the first half.
The home team had extended that margin to 30-19 on Huertas' bucket with 6:54 showing on the clock.
"Our transition defense hurt us in the first half," Pelphrey said. "They just kind of ran by us a couple of times."
Arkansas failed to pack up his bags and got back into the game by scoring 12 of the first half's last 16 points.
That run began with a Beverley 3-pointer and concluded with Ervin going coast-to-coast for a lay-up with 32 seconds left in the half to cut it to 39-35.
"I thought we really settled in and thought it was going to be a much more closer contested game in the second half," Pelphrey said. "But that's not what happened. Then just when you think it was over, we came back again. But we have got to do better. That's not good enough."
Arkansas will close out its regular season – and honor its six seniors - with a 5 p.m. game Saturday against visiting Auburn at Bud Walton Arena.
Patrick Beverley goes to the basket for two of his team-high 19 points.
John Pelphrey expresses his displeasure with the action.
Charles Thomas dunks during the loss to Ole Miss.
Thomas and Gary Ervin pressure Eniel Polynice.
Ole Miss 81, Arkansas 72
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