Rock Solid

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Ole Miss wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

A week ago, in its first road test of the season at Miami, Ole Miss fell behind early. Head coach Andy Kennedy likened the first-half woes to an avalanche. Everything went wrong. Ole Miss trailed by 30 at halftime, before ultimately dropping its second game of the season, despite a ferocious second-half comeback bid.

Saturday at UALR was a much different story.

"I think we took a step in the right direction, as far as our growth," Kennedy said in the bowels of the sparkling Jack Stephens Center, following his team's 84-70 win. "I thought our approach was tremendous out of the gate."

Ole Miss (5-2) poured on the points early, with Trevor Gaskins connecting on a jumper just inside the 3-point line for the game's first points. Nick Williams followed with another bucket. Chris Warren made two free throws and a 3-pointer. Terrance Henry capped an 8-0 run with a thunderous dunk.

There was score after score. The Rebels couldn't miss, building their lead to double-digits.

"We needed a big road-win game," Warren said. "This was the time to pick it up. Our main focus was to start off well, and we did."

They led, 14-2, at the 13:49 mark in the first half, but kept applying pressure both offensively and defensively. And Ole Miss' advantage only continued to grow. With 7:33 to go until halftime, Ole Miss was up, 25-12.

"I knew (UALR) was going to make a run," Kennedy said. "They certainly did that. We were in a dog fight."

Andy Kennedy

UALR (6-4) made its run. The Trojans scored 15 points to Ole Miss' seven over the next four minutes, trimming the deficit to five. UALR outscored Ole Miss, 24-17, as the horn sounded for intermission. The teams went into their respective locker rooms with the score favoring Ole Miss, 42-36.

"I knew Little Rock was going to continue to attack us," Kennedy said. "They're very good off the dribble. Our guys had a hard time containing them off the bounce. There's no secret as to why they were 5-0 in this building prior to us coming in. They're a good basketball team."

Ole Miss owned the second half, scoring another 42 points. UALR, meanwhile, struggled with a reenergized Rebel defense. Ole Miss held the Trojans to 34 points in the second half on 39 percent shooting.

Over the first 11 minutes of the half, Ole Miss outscored UALR 25-9.

Ole Miss shot 60 percent from the floor (28-47), including 50 percent from 3 (11-22). The Rebels held the edge in rebounding, 38-34, and had four players in double-digit points (Warren, Buckner, Gaskins and Graham). UALR was paced by Matt Mouzy's 13 points. Oxford native Solomon Bozeman had nine.

"Well, for us, we've got to still continue to work on a lot of different things," Kennedy said. "We got off to a great start, they made a run at us, but we responded. Again, it shows it's hard to win college basketball games."

Warren reaches 1,500 points:

Warren entered Saturday's game needing 18 points to surpass 1,500 for his career. He had 10 at halftime. The final eight were all but inevitable.

Warren made two free throws with time winding down in the game for 1,500. He had 18 points, leading all scorers, on 5 of 10 shooting, including a perfect 6 for 6 from the free-throw line. Warren also had five rebounds and seven assists.

"Obviously I'm a lot more comfortable when he's out there," Kennedy said. "I'm more comfortable when Chris has that ball. He's been tremendous for us. You never have to question his approach, you never have to question his attitude. You know you're going to get consistent effort."

The senior guard, one of the more prolific players in program history, is the SEC's active leader in points, assists, 3-pointers and 20-point games. He averages a team-high 18.3 per game, good for fourth-best in the conference.

"Is it just a number? Pretty much," Warren said of reaching 1,500 career points. "I'm just trying to win games. This is my last year. I'm just trying to have a very productive year. I think, as of right now, I may be on the right track."

Block party:

Reginald Buckner

Prior to tipoff, Buckner averaged 2.7 blocks per game, good for second in the SEC. He bettered that total by halftime (3).

Buckner, Ole Miss' powerful low-post presence, was a machine near the rim – shades of the former four-star recruit out of nearby Memphis, Tenn. He set a career-high with 14 points, fell one shy of tying a career-high with 11 rebounds and tied a career-high with five blocks.

He added four free-throws, also tied for a career-high.

"That was, without question, the best game offensively he's had for us," Kennedy said. "We got him close touches at the rim and he finished. He gives us so much defensively with his ability to block shots. He's our best out-of-area rebounder. He's a tremendous presence for us."

Buckner has been plagued by foul trouble most of the year. Saturday, however, he remained on the floor, not picking up his first foul until midway through the second half. He had already totaled 13 points and eight rebounds.

"It was a good game for me to break out like I did," Buckner said. "Now I got my confidence up. I'm ready. In practice, we worked on not fouling. I just carried it over to the game."

Random Notes: Ole Miss now owns a 59-22 all-time record against current members of the Sun Belt Conference, including a 2-0 record against UALR… Kennedy sits third on the school's all-time coaching victories list with 90 wins… Ole Miss made 17 of its 31 free throws, good for just 55 percent. Ole Miss entered the game as the conference leader in free-throw percentage… The Rebels are 58-17 versus non-league foes under Kennedy… UALR had won two straight prior to the loss.

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