Well into the second half, it was playing like the underdog.
The Rebels, who trailed by four at halftime, led SELA by a slim, one-point advantage with just over seven minutes to go in the game. But Chris Warren capped an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer to give his team a 56-46 lead, and send Ole Miss to its 11th win of the season.
"I thought we came out a little flat offensively," head coach Andy Kennedy said, after his team finished off a 69-58 win.
"As a result, the whole game was played at their pace. We played into their hands, and ended up grinding it out."
The Lions pulled within six twice in the second half, including 65-59 with less than a minute left.
However, Zach Graham responded with a layup plus the free throw to seal the win in front of over 4,000 fans in attendance.
With the win, Ole Miss moved to 11-3 on the season. SELA, meanwhile, fell to 6-6. Warren led four Rebels in double-figure points with 22 on 7 of 15 shooting. He also tallied six assists to just three turnovers.
"One of the coaches, at the beginning of the game, said we looked like we weren't ready to play. I disagreed with him," Warren said. "The coaches were right. We came out sluggish, slow. It ended up being a good game."
Reginald Buckner played his first game since the team's trip to Cancun, Mexico over Christmas.
Buckner had been battling a sore knee, limiting the sophomore forward in practice. Buckner finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds over 31 minutes for his second career double-double.
"I thought he was really good," Kennedy said. "His energy was outstanding. He's getting better offensively. He's getting a little more comfortable."
Ole Miss shot 48 percent from the floor for the game, compared to 38 percent for the Lions. The Rebels also held the edge in rebounding, 68-59.
Ole Miss next travels to Dallas, Texas to square off with SMU.
Wednesday's game is the final non-conference game for Ole Miss before it opens its SEC play at Florida Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.
Gaskins again sits out:
Trevor Gaskins missed his third-straight game Sunday with a nagging hamstring injury.
Gaskins hurt his hamstring in the second game of Ole Miss' 2-1 trip to Cancun. Kennedy, again, said Gaskins could have played if the circumstance were different. However, Kennedy and the training staff wanted to hold the junior out once more for precautionary reasons as the team prepares for Florida.
Kennedy said he's hopeful Gaskins can return to the fold against SMU.
"He doesn't have any pain," Kennedy said. "If you don't have any pain that tells me you're getting better. He hadn't had any pain to the hamstring. It just feels a little unstable, which everybody says is normal. Again, if we were fighting for our SEC lives tonight, he could have gone."
Lady Rebels win in comeback fashion:
Senior Kayla Melson scored 30 points to lead all scorers, and Ole Miss erased a 16-point halftime deficit, as the Lady Rebels downed Vanderbilt in thrilling fashion Sunday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Courtney Marbra, a sophomore, gave the Lady Rebels their first lead since the game's opening possession on a jumper with 5:02 left in the game. Ole Miss held on for a 72-67 win, improving its record to 8-5 overall and 1-0 in league play.
"Our defensive effort," head coach Renee Ladner, when asked of what sparked the comeback win, said. "What has plagued us is when we're playing hard and the ball doesn't go in the basket, it effects us on the defensive end of the floor. Defense for us has to generate our offense and we're still trying to learn that lesson."
Melson also contributed a team-high seven rebounds and five assists. Valencia McFarland chipped in with 15 points and four assists. Jence Rhoads and Hannah Tuomi led Vanderbilt (9-5, 0-1) with 16 points apiece.
Ole Miss returns to action at Tennessee January 9. The game, to be broadcast by CSS, is set for 11 a.m. CT.