Buzzard Beaters

True to form, Saturday's game between Ole Miss and Southern Miss went down to the wire. And, again, the Rebels came away with a hard-fought victory.

Despite being outscored by five in the second half and outrebounded, 38-30, in the game, Ole Miss held on for an 86-81 win thanks to four converted free throws by Chris Warren and Zach Graham in the game's final 29 seconds.

The Rebels nearly allowed its 44-34 halftime lead to slip away, even falling behind by as much as seven in the second half, but rode the production of Warren and his fellow veterans to a critical non-conference win in front of 5,181 fans inside Tad Smith Coliseum.

"A lot of people say, ‘Man, why do you play (Southern Miss)?' I play them because I know Larry (Eustachy's) teams are going to be prepared and I know they're going to be tough," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said.

"I was proud that we fought. I was proud that our seniors rose up and made some plays down the stretch."

Andy Kennedy

Warren led the team with 20 points on 5 of 13 shooting. He was also 4 of 9 from 3. Zach Graham added 16 points, three rebounds and two assists. Southern Miss was paced by R.L. Horton's 20 points. Gary Flowers had 19.

It was the third-consecutive 20-point game for Warren, a senior guard, who is tied for second on the Ole Miss career 3-pointers chart. Warren is the active SEC leader in points, assists, 3-pointers and 20-point games.

"That's what he has to do," Kennedy said. "Everybody has a go-to (player). Chris is our guy. We're going to put the ball in his hands and play in space. He put pressure on the rim and made some plays."

Warren, his team trailing by two late in the second half, connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to retake the lead, 78-76. Ole Miss never trailed again. Warren entered the game averaging a team-leading 18 points per game.

"I just felt like that was a point in time where we needed a big play," Warren said of the 3s. "We needed play after play. I felt like I had a rhythm, so I shot it. And it went in twice."

Chris Warren

With the win, Ole Miss improves to 4-2 on the season. Southern Miss fell to 5-1. The Rebels shot 45 percent from the floor, compared to 50 percent for the Golden Eagles. Ole Miss made 8 of 21 3-pointers, good for 38 percent.

"We never give up 86 points, and we just couldn't stop them," Eustachy said. "We played LSU in a scrimmage. I watched Arkansas. I know (Mississippi) State's going to get those two players back, but I could see Ole Miss winning their side of the conference in the SEC. I think they're that good.

"And we're that good. We can play with these guys. Breaks just didn't go our way in the end, which seems to happen every time we come here."

Kennedy gets creative:

After Ole Miss opened the game with a 5-0 spurt, Eustachy used his first timeout. The Golden Eagles responded with a 9-0 run. But in a first half filled with adjustments, Kennedy, his team trailing 14-12, instituted a quicker lineup to bring pressure in a full-court defense.

Enter Dundrecous Nelson, Zach Graham, Nick Williams, Trevor Gaskins and Demarco Cox.

The group parlayed turnovers into high-percentage baskets. Ole Miss reeled off a 10-0 run to lead 22-14 with just under 10 minutes to play in the first half. Ole Miss held a 44-34 advantage at the break, and had forced 13 turnovers.

"I thought we bothered them with that pressure a little bit," Kennedy said. "May have caught them off guard. I told our team at half, I was not happy, because I thought our margin should have been greater. We let some opportunities slip away.

"When they were as on their heels as they were in the first half, we should have been up more than 10, because I knew they were going to make a run."

Nelson breaks out:

Nelson had his coming-out party Saturday.

The freshman guard, who had tallied double-digit points only once this season, had nine points in the first half as Ole Miss built its 10-point halftime lead. He was 3 of 4 in his 3-point attempts, including an impressive cross-over, pull-up trey to cap a 13-2 run.

Dundrecous Nelson

"I think so," Kennedy said, when asked if Nelson had his best game of the season. "I think he did, as far as the ball going in the basket. Four turnovers in 15 minutes from your point guard is unacceptable, and he knows that. He goes too fast sometimes.

"He's trying hard, though, and as he's getting healthier, his production will increase."

Nelson finished the game with 11 points and two rebounds. He also had three assists. He was 4 of 7 from the floor.

"He's going to be a great player," Warren said. "He can score anytime he wants to. He's got a gift; got great talent. He's just got a lot to learn. When he learns that, he'll be a helluva player."

Rebels rebound:

Sophomore guard Nick Williams, who had 13 points and five rebounds in the win, said Saturday's game was important, considering the events four days prior.

Ole Miss lost its first road game at Miami Tuesday. Southern Miss was another quality non-conference opponent. Williams said the team had to win this game in respect to its RPI. Ole Miss entered the game with an RPI Rank of 96, according to RealTimeRPI.

"We knew we had to have this game," he said. "We came out flat against Miami. We tried to fight back, but we couldn't get it. We knew today was going to be a big RPI game for us. (Southern Miss) is a good team. We just fought and fought, and played our basketball."

Random Notes: Ole Miss is now 57-15 against non-league foes under Kennedy, with a 41-2 record at home… Ole Miss boasts a 63-12 record at Tad Smith Coliseum since Kennedy's arrival in 2006-07… Ole Miss has won 16 of 22 games versus current C-USA teams… Kennedy, with 89 wins, is in third place on Ole Miss' all-time coaching victories list.

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