Ole Miss needed a spark as the game with Southeastern Louisiana was winding down and the Lions still hanging around. Enter Todd Abernethy.
The sophomore guard from Carmel, Ind., nailed three straight 3-pointers to lift his team to a 64-48 New Year's Eve afternoon victory in Oxford.
With the Rebels only up 43-39, Abernethy scored the game's next nine points to give Ole Miss a 52-39 advantage with 4:57 to go.
"The coaches were telling me all game that I was passing up shots and that I needed to let it go, so I finally did," said Abernethy, who ended the game tied with junior forward Londrick Nolen in the scoring department with 13 points apiece. "I think it helped the whole team's confidence at that point. We'd been a little tentative the whole game. After that, we kept attacking until the end."
The Rebels certainly hadn't attacked until that point. It had actually been SLU that did most of the attacking. The visitors, who still trailed 28-21 at halftime, were playing aggressively on defense and shooting lights out.
The Lions came in 7-4 on the season and had lost by only three points at Southern Miss and by only seven points at Houston. They were here to get a win over a Southeastern Conference team and were playing that way.
Ole Miss had gotten back to Oxford late Thursday afternoon following an emotional 63-62 win at Virginia Commonwealth the night before. They practiced Thursday night. Then they had a pregame meal Friday morning and a game that started at 2 p.m.
But Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes would have none of those excuses as reasons why the Rebels didn't perform up to his expectations against the Lions. He was not a happy coach following the Rebels' seventh straight win.
"I thought we did what we had to do to win the game, but we didn't play well," said Barnes, whose team improved to 9-4 on the season after a 2-4 start. "Obviously we're thankful for the win, and to come back from 2-4 and move to 9-4 is positive. But we've got a long way to go and a lot of improving to do. SEC play begins now, and from now until Wednesday we'll be getting ready for Arkansas."
The Rebels travel to Fayetteville for a 7 p.m. tipoff Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena.
Against SLU, Ole Miss actually appeared to be on the verge of putting the game away earlier than it did. The Rebels led 42-30 following a 3-point basket by senior forward Kendrick Fox. But Ole Miss missed a layup that would have put the Rebs up 14, and the Lions scored nine straight to cut it to 42-39. All of a sudden it was a game again.
Sophomore guard Bam Doyne made one of two free throws to put the Rebs up by four at 43-39, and that's when Abernethy displayed a little of the Hoosier magic he brought down with him from his home state.
After he made the first one for a 46-39 UM lead, the Lions turned it over. After he made it 49-39, SLU turned it over again. When he nailed the third one to make it 52-39, the 2,044 announced attendance made their loudest roar of the afternoon. And the Lions were basically reduced to a whimper.
"Southeastern Louisiana came in and fought hard and played with a lot of energy," Barnes said. "We finally responded. This was a good win for us."
SLU shot 56 percent for the game, while the Rebels were an uncharacteristic 39 percent from the floor. Ole Miss took twice as many shots as the Lions, 54-27.
From 3-point range, Ole Miss was 6-16 for 38 percent and SLU 1-6 for 17 percent. The Lions were 17-30 from the free throw line, and Ole Miss 16-23.
Ole Miss had 13 turnovers and forced 22 Southeastern turnovers. The Rebels led in the rebounding department 34-20.
Ricky Woods and Terry Bryant led the visitors with 18 and 16 points respectively.
Abernethy's 3s lift Rebs to 64-48 win over SLU
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