OXFORD, Miss. – The team that was picked to finish sixth in the SEC Western Division was nowhere to be found in the non-conference slate.
But now that the league slate has started, it's showed up.
Terrico White had 18 points, David Huertas 16, Zach Graham 12 and Malcolm Holloway 11 each as Ole Miss used a balance attack to down Arkansas 74-65 Wednesday night at the Tad Smith Coliseum.
"I'm not saying we are a Final Four team or anything, but we are better than that," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "We did not play well at all tonight. I have to give credit to Ole Miss, but this was certainly not one of our best efforts."
Courtney Fortson had 24 points and Jason Henry 19 point snad 8 rebounds – most of them late - to lead the Razorbacks (12-3, 0-2), who have now lost two straight after riding a 10-game winning streak and taking down Top 10 teams Oklahoma and Texas.
"It's frustrating to go from sucess to losing two straight," Pelphrey said. "We're going to find out a lot about ourselves the next two days."
Pelphrey said it was pretty simple.
"We've got to play better," Pelphrey said. "That's the reality. Nobody was asking us these questions a couple of games ago when we were competing with the best teams in the country. We have to play better. It's on us."
Ole Miss (10-6, 1-1) kept its streak alive of alternating wins and losses in the last 11 games and handed Arkansas its second straight blowout loss in league play.
"I thought we came out tonight and were definitely the aggressor and got them back on their heels," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "That was a big part of getting off to such a good start."
Arkansas, which trailed by 21 in the first half, had clawed back within 34-28 when Fortson scored on a driving lay-up with 18:25 left in the game that forced a timeout.
But White and Huertas buried consecutive 3-points as Ole Miss jumped back out to a 40-28 lead just over a minute later.
By the time, Graham hit two free throws with 10:41 left, the Rebels had roared back out to a 53-32 lead on the strength of a 19-4 run.
Ole Miss, which led 72-57 before Henry helped Arkansas close the score cosmetically, shot 42.9 percent from the field, 7-of-17 from 3-point range and 19-of-23 from the free throw line.
"I thought our pace was perfect," Kennedy said. "When we were going full speed, we shot mid-60s in shot attempts. We want to be in the 50s. We got to the foul line tonight as we have all year. We were pretty consistent from there."
Henry, who has missed games due to injury and suspension, got his game going late.
"I thought Jason Henry played very aggressive," Pelphrey said. "He got some of those points late. Maybe it will kick start him. We definitely need more offense now."
Ole Miss roared away from an 8-6 lead with a 22-6 haymaker in which White poured in 9 of his points.
The spree started with he drilled a 3-pointer and was capped on his bucket that put the Rebels up 32-11 with just over 5 minutes left in the half.
"I thought it was a great start for us," Kennedy said. "One thing about playing a young group is that they have short memories. Depite us losing to Florida (78-68 on the road last Saturday)we finished the game on a really good note. We were really competitive after what we went through at the beginning of the game.
"We looked forward to this game," Kennedy added. "We have preached in this league that you have to do well on your home court. Our approach was tremendous early. We made some shots and were feeling good about ourselves, which is something all teams should do."
A lot of that came with White playing at point guard, where the Rebels have lost a trio of players to injury.
"The reality is that Terrico White hasn't played point guard all his life until three games ago," Kennedy said. "Now we are asking him to play against one of the top point guards in the league in Courtney Fortson. We're asking him to do it offensively and defensively, control the team and know the plays. It's been a bit of a challenge but I thought he was tremendous tonight."
During that stretch, former Arkansas and current Ole Miss head football coach Houston Nutt was introduced to a standing ovation.
Fortson, who had 13 points in the opening half, sparked his team back into the game as the Razorbacks went on an 11-0 run.
"Courtney forced his will and made some unbelieveable shots," Pelphrey said. "We couldn't get anything from anyone else."
He had seven points in that period with his steal and slam bringing Arkansas within 32-22 with 1:19 showing.
Both teams would score once more before intermission with Washington's rebound basket sending it to the locker room with Ole Miss ahead 34-24.
The Razorbacks were within reach in part because they got to the line 11 times in the opening half, netting 7 of them while the Rebels were just 2-of-3.
"Arkansas made a run to close the half, but I thought we started the second half on a good note," Kennedy said. "Except for a couple of minutes at the end, I thought it was a good half for us on both sides of the ball."
Michael Washington and Stefan Welsh both had 7 points for the Razorbacks.
Washington, averaging a double-double this season, had 2 points and 3 rebounds in the final half.
"(Washington) struggled tonight," Pelphrey said. "Obviously it shows how much our team relies on him. He has seven points and 8 rebounds and those aren't horrible numbers for most, but it is not what we are used to from him."
Arkansas shot 43.4 percent from the field and lost the board battle 36-34 while hitting only 3-of-15 3-point attempts.
"The best thing to do against that is to get the ball down in the post, draw two guys to you and get it back out for an open look," Pelphrey said. "That is something that we have been working on hard in practice, but certainly did not do tonight."
Welsh was called for a technical late in the game.
"He feels really bad about that and in fact was moved to tears on the bench," Pelphrey said. "Look, the kid is playing hard and trying to do the right thing. Like I told him, the referees are going to listen to players. They don't even listen to me."
Starters Rotnei Clarke and Michael Sanchez were both scoreless.
The Razorbacks had 12 offensive rebounds - 4 from Washington and 4 from the 5-11 Fortson.
"We've got to find some offensive rebounding," Pelphrey said. "Outside of Washington, we don't have it. Sanchez played 23 minutes and only had 1 rebound. "(Marcus) Monk had 15 minutes and 2 rebounds. Clark and Moore played a lot of minutes (10) and had no rebounds. A dead man could get that."
Things don't get any easier Saturday afternoon when Arkansas travels to Florida.
"Right now we're down 0-2 and we have another road game at one of the most difficult places to play in the league," Pelphrey said. "Our team might be surprised how fast this stuff is happening right now and it'll be interesting to see how they respond."
Ole Miss 74, Arkansas 65
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