MSU closes the regular season with back-to-back wins. The Bulldogs finish 19-12 overall and 9-7 in league play - actually one full game ahead of last year's division championship pace. Ole Miss finishes the regular season at 16-14 and 7-9. The Rebels will either be Western Division's fourth or fifth seed when tournament play starts Thursday.
A season-high Smith Coliseum crowd of 9,030 saw an exciting game from start to finish. There were 13 ties and nine lead changes. Neither team led by more than eight points throughout the entire contest. Saturday's contest was similar to Ole Miss' 67-63 January win in the Humphrey Coliseum. Ironically, the two in-state rivals had never split the season series with each team winning away from home.
Ole Miss started the contest strong, opening an 18-10 lead with 12:50 left before halftime. A 10-3 run by MSU cut the Rebels' lead to 21-20.
A layup by MSU's Twanny Beckham finally tied the teams at 27. There would be five more first-half ties, including a 42-42 deadlock at the intermission.
The second half also saw five ties before a pair of Kodi Augustus free throws finally allowed the Bulldogs to break on top 57-56. The Rebels then reeled off seven straight points with a Terrico White dunk giving UM a 63-57 lead with 10:42 left.
This time, MSU would have the final answer. The teams became tied at 65-65 before Stewart rammed home a 3-point basket for a 68-65 lead. Seconds later, Bulldog Phil Turner hit a 3-pointer of his own to give his squad a 71-66 advantage, capping a 12-2 run by the Bulldogs.
The Rebels then closed within two on two different occasions, including 79-77 in the final half minute. Riley Benock hit a pair of free throws for an 81-77 lead. After Terrico White drained another 3-poitner for the Rebels, Dee Bost answered with one free throw for the Bulldogs. Trailing 82-80, a mid-court heave from Terrico White hit off the rim as the horn sounded.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 47 shots from the field (48.9 percent), 8 of 23 shots from 3-point range (34.8 percent) and 28 of 37 shots from the foul line (75.7 percent).
Meanwhile, the Rebels hit 25 of 56 shots from the field (44.6 percent), 6 of 23 shots from 3-point range (26.1 percent) and 24 of 35 shots from the foul line (68.6 percent). UM held a 33-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 13 assists and 10 turnovers, while the Rebels had 11 assists and 12 turnovers.
Trailing Stewart, Dee Bost and Kodi Augustus each had 13 points for the Bulldogs. Augustus had a team-high seven rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Jarvis Varnado battled heavy foul trouble most of the night and finished with two blocks.
Freshman sensation Terrico White paced UM with 21 points. Malcolm White added 20 points, while Zach Graham scored 16 points, Murphy Holloway scored 11 points and David Huertas scored 10 points. Holloway pulled down a team-high 14 rebounds.