Rebs roast Hogs 74-72

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said this week he had to get more production from his inside guys. On Saturday he got it.

Four days prior to the Rebels' 74-72 win over Arkansas, Ole Miss had only gotten 10 points from center Dwayne Curtis in a loss at Mississippi State and no points from the other big men, Jermey Parnell and Kenny Williams.

Saturday was different. And it was likely the difference in the game.

A big, tall Arkansas team was in the way of the Rebels' first Southeastern Conference win of the season. Curtis, Parnell, and Williams combined for 34 of the Rebels 74 points and 21 of the Rebels' 34 rebounds.

The players and their head coach said it was more about approach than any strategy.

"It was about effort and intensity," said Kennedy as his team moved to 12-5 overall and 1-2 in the SEC. "We tried to do everything we could to establish (Curtis) inside against that front line, which is as good as anybody in our league and possibly anybody in the country. I knew it was going to be a big challenge for our guys."

You could see it, the intensity level and effort Kennedy talked about. A couple of times Razorback players were laid out on the floor in the lane. The Rebels answered whatever physical play the Hogs presented them all game long.

"We had to stop the bleeding," said Williams of the Rebels' three-game losing skid. He had 10 points and seven rebounds, but more than any stats show, he was more active inside than he's been all season.

"I had to understand my role more, and that was what I've been working on more lately," the junior juco transfer said. "Coming into this program, I just had to learn some things. I believe I understand that more now."

Curtis is in his third season with the Rebels. He knows and understands already. In this one, he proved it.

"After the Mississippi State game, we focused on raising our intensity," said Curtis, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the big-man attack on this day. "I had a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) in that game (at MSU), but I had to do more."

All the inside Rebels did, and it paid off today. After Arkansas jumped out to a 6-0 lead, the Rebels settled in. A couple of Todd Abernethy jumpers - one a 3 and one a 2 - got UM started from the outside. The big men went to work after that.

The game was tied at 20-20, and then the Rebs went on a run. A reverse layup by Curtis made it 29-22 Ole Miss, and later an inside basket by Parnell gave the Rebels a 34-24 lead. At halftime, Ole Miss was up 38-30.

In the second half Ole Miss extended its lead to as much as 14 points at 63-49 on a Brian Smith 3-pointer with 8:14 to go. But that's when what most had been concerned about happened - a drought by the Rebs or a scoring spurt by the opposition.

The Hogs scored 10 straight at that point to pull to within four at 63-59. Soon after, a layup by Sonny Weems got the visitors even at 65-65, and the Razorbacks were on a 16-2 run.

Led by Bam Doyne's 12-foot jumper and then a steal by Doyne which led to a drive and a layup for Todd Abernethy, the Rebels scored six straight (also counting two free throws by Doyne after a foul on Gary Ervin) to go up 71-65. They seemingly had withstood the Razorbacks' run.

But that wasn't the case. Shortly thereafter, a 3-point basket by Charles Thomas with 31 seconds left gave UA the lead at 72-71.

On the Rebs' next possession, Curtis was fouled on a shot underneath and made two free throws with 19.9 seconds left to give UM a 73-72 advantage.

As the Razorbacks got it back downcourt, Clarence Sanders took the ball away from Ervin with 11 seconds to go and fouled Sanders. The Rebel senior guard missed the first but made the second for a 74-72 lead with nine seconds left.

Arkansas again raced downcourt as Ervin missed on a layup. Curtis rebounded for Ole Miss and was tied up - possession Arkansas.

With .08 left, Arkansas threw the ball in but it was deflected off Williams of Ole Miss. With .05 left, Williams was able to get a hand on the ball as it was thrown over the top of the defense, and time expired.

"It certainly got a little nerve-wracking at the end," Kennedy said. "But we found a way to win, and hopefully that will do wonders for the confidence of this group."

"I thought Ole Miss played very well," said Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, his team also now 12-5 and 1-2. "They were the tougher team in the first half. They were more aggressive. The second half was different. I thought we were in position to steal it. It just didn't happen."

Thomas led Arkansas with 23 points, while Patrick Beverly had 15.

After Curtis' 20 for the Rebels, Abernethy and Sanders had 13 each, while Doyne had 11 and Williams 10.

Ole Miss had the better of it in the turnover department as the Hogs committed 21 of them to the Rebs' 14.

That it was his first SEC win didn't necessarily mean anything to Kennedy.

"Hopefully it won't be my last," he quipped.

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