Grind-it-out Win

There may have been wintery conditions outside, but for the some 2,100 fans who braved icy roads Wednesday night, the action inside Tad Smith Coliseum provided plenty of heat.

Zach Graham hit a jumper just inside the 3-point line with over a minute remaining, and Ole Miss held defensively, as the Rebels pulled out a nail-biter over LSU, 66-60, running the Rebels' win streak to three games. With the win, Ole Miss moved to 16-8 overall and 4-5 in Southeastern Conference play.

"Obviously, you could tell I was not a happy camper with the way we played in a lot of areas," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "But there's no such thing as an ugly win in February. I was proud that we were able to grind it out. Those games are tough at times."

Graham and Chris Warren combined for 43 points, each making a pair of free throws with less than 25 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory. Ole Miss has now won four straight matchups against LSU, and 13 of the last 18 meetings at home.


Warren had a game-high 26 points.
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
"From the start, we didn't come out ready to play for some reason," Warren said. "We started off missing shots, had a lot of turnovers. The one thing that kept us in the game was defense. We continued to play defense. They made hard shots. We stayed resilient. We won the game."

"We didn't play great. We were kind of tentative," Graham said. "But we stayed in the game and grinded out a win. No matter who the opponent is, a win is a win. We're happy we won the game. There's no easy games. We're going to have to grind it out."

Warren led all scorers with 26 points. He was 7 of 19 from the floor. Graham followed with 17 points, as the only other Rebel in double figures. The pair was 13 for 13 from the free throw line, though the team shot only 63.3 percent.

"I'm going to continue to challenge them," Kennedy said of Warren and Graham, his only seniors. "That's who we're going to run offense for. We try everything, trust me. We run out of options at times. We went with our seniors and they stepped up."

The Rebels shot 39 percent (21-54) from the floor, including 31.3 percent from 3. They also won the rebounding battle, 39-30. LSU was led by Matt Derenbecker, who scored 19 points. His previous high was 17 points against Rice as a freshman. He was 5 of 7 in his 3-point attempts.

Ole Miss started out slowly in the game, while LSU (10-14, 2-7 SEC) jumped ahead on four quick points by former Rebel Malcolm White. Ole Miss had its first lead, 21-19, with 5:10 to go in the first half, and led by one at halftime.

LSU opened the second half with an 8-2 run to lead, 40-35. The Tigers' largest lead was eight with 11:29 remaining. However, Ole Miss tied the game, 51-51, at the 6:29 mark. The teams traded baskets in a back-and-forth half, before the Rebels pulled away in the final minute.


Graham was Ole Miss' second-leading scorer with 17 points.
Courtesy: Bruce Newman
"We were just struggling offensively," Kennedy said. "When we struggle shooting the basketball, which we've been known to do for some reason, then this team struggles. But I'm proud tonight that we grinded it out."

Ole Miss next faces Alabama Saturday at 3 p.m. in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide is 15-7 overall, but more impressively, 7-1 in league games. Alabama travels to Vanderbilt Thursday for an 8 p.m. tilt on ESPN2.

"Record-wise, they are the best team in the SEC," Kennedy said. "That's indisputable right now. They're 3-0 versus the (SEC) East. They've handled their business.

"They've been playing excellent. They're playing with a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence."


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