Grand Return

Murphy Holloway made his return from a three-game absence for an ankle injury Wednesday night. His final stat line proved just how much Ole Miss missed him.

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Holloway, who last played against Middle Tennessee State in mid-December, led the team in points and rebounds with 19 and 14, respectively, in a 71-63 win over Arkansas. He was one of three players in double-digit points.

"Nice to have him back," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "Sometimes you wonder, boy, you've lost four out of five. What's wrong? He wasn't playing. That's what's wrong. Good players make good coaches. When Murph's back, it energizes our front court. It makes a world of difference."

Holloway suffered a high ankle sprain in the second half of a 68-56 loss to MTSU Dec. 21, and played Wednesday night despite being limited with the injury. He was sporting a walking boot following the game, but said he felt good postgame.

Holloway recorded his fifth double-double of the season and the 19th of his career in the win.

"I thought he was a big catalyst for their team," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said of Holloway. "I think he gives them maybe that leader out there. He was hurt a little bit, but he just willed his team to win. That's what good players do. They kind of jumped on his back."

Holloway entered the game averaging close to a double-double per game at 9.9 points per game and 9.6 rebounds, which ranked third in the SEC. He was 33rd nationally in rebounding entering Wednesday.

Outside of the on-the-court production, however, Holloway said he provides energy and leadership for a team that struggled with both in its Southeastern Conference opener at LSU Saturday, an 81-55 loss. Ole Miss scored no more than 56 points in its last five games, finishing with a 1-4 record.

"Not really," Holloway said, when asked if he knew beforehand how much he meant to the team. "Really not until tonight, as you see energy and all that. I don't really look at it too much. That's just who I am and how I play. I think we need it. I just help keep the young guys up."

Williams (left) and Holloway (right)
Bruce Newman

"Murph coming back was big for us," forward Nick Williams said. "I'm surprised at how fast he came back from that ankle sprain. But Murph got back, got into a groove and did what he needed to do. He was just Murph for us tonight."

With the win, Ole Miss moved to 11-5 on the year and earned its first league win of the season. The Rebels are now 1-1 conference games. Arkansas fell to 12-4 overall and 1-1 in the SEC.

Ole Miss has now won 20 of its last 28 meetings with Arkansas, and seven out of the last eight.

"We saw today how big of an affect (Holloway) can have on the game," Williams said. "We're going to need it Saturday and the rest of the way in the SEC. We went through a tough little stretch. We didn't hang our heads. We came out today and proved to everybody what we can do."

The Rebels didn't make a 3-pointer in the win for the first time in 542 games, missing all seven of their attempts. They committed 23 turnovers. Still, they found a way to win, using rebounds, second-chance points and free throws.

Ole Miss dominated the glass, outrebounding Arkansas 48-28. Ole Miss, as a team, made 19 of 26 free throws, good for 73 percent. Williams scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Jarvis Summers had 11 points and was 7 of 7 from the free-throw line.

Arkansas was led by Marvell Waithe, who had 15 points. B.J. Young had 14 points.

"This is more of an indication, I think, of what the potential of this team is," Kennedy said. "We're still playing with guys who are way too loose with the ball. Granted, Arkansas is very good at what they do. We played into that a little bit by making some poor decisions. Our ball security has to get better, and we'll continue to work on those areas."

Ole Miss built on its 37-29 halftime lead in the opening minutes of the second half, and held a 45-34 advantage following a Holloway layup with 13:26 to play. With just over seven minutes left, the Rebels had their biggest lead at 56-43.

However, Arkansas chipped away, coming to within five, 59-54, at the 4:16 mark of the second half. Back-to-back baskets by Terrance Henry -- who had seven points -- and Holloway pushed the lead to nine, and Henry ended all doubt with a three-point play with 26 seconds remaining.

Ole Miss returns to action Saturday at Auburn. The game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

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