Rebels keep heat on in win over Bulldogs

Ole Miss answered every Mississippi State run in Oxford Tuesday night. That, in a nutshell, was what made the difference in this one.

The Rebels also beat the Bulldogs by getting ahead early and staying ahead.

After the Rebs, who won the contest 85-73 before 8,415 fans, took an 11-9 lead on a Todd Abernethy 3-point basket with 14:17 to go in the first half, the Bulldogs never led again.

But they never went away either. Not until late in this one.

Ole Miss bombed away from 3-point range in the first half. MSU tried to make things happen in a different way, pounding away at the Rebels inside.

The Rebs were 5-for-12 from behind the arc in the first half. During the early moments of this one, it was their best weapon.

Bam Doyne and Clarence Sanders then added 3s of their own to push the Rebels' lead to 17-12 with 11:48 to go in the first half. That gave Ole Miss a cushion to continue to surge and move out to a 14-point lead twice before halftime at 34-20 on a Sanders two-point jumper and 36-22 on a layup by Jermey Parnell, the latter coming with 3:53 to go in the half.

Then came State's first run. The Bulldogs outscored Ole Miss 12-4 to head into intermission down only 40-34.

But the Rebels answered. As has been the case with Andy Kennedy's ballclub lately, the Rebels came out on fire in half two. An 11-2 opening spurt gave the Rebels a 51-36 lead. But State didn't fold.

The Bulldogs went on a 12-2 run to pull to within five points at 53-48 with 12:59 left.

After the Rebels built the lead back up to ten points at 61-51, MSU got it back to within five at 67-62 with 7:16 left on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Reginald Delk.

But that would basically be State's last stand as the Rebels moved back out to a double-digit lead at 74-64 with 5:03 to go. After a State turnover, Sanders drilled a 3-pointer with 4:34 remaining for a 77-64 lead, and everybody in the building could feel this one heading toward a red and blue win.

"We answered every run," said UM senior guard Todd Abernethy, who had 19 points, 10 assists and four rebounds. "Our early 3-pointers were huge, and we just continued to fight all the way."

Kennedy said the Rebels kept the heat up on State, and that was a big difference.

"We continued to attack down the stretch," said Kennedy, his team now 14-8 overall and 3-5 in Southeastern Conference play. "That opened up some opportunitues for us, and we took advantage of that."

The Rebels' senior guard trio of Abernethy, Doyne, and Sanders carried the team. Doyne led the Rebs with 23 points and Sanders had 22.

"We kept maintaining the lead and kept our composure," said Sanders, who hadn't practiced in two days because of a leg injury. "Tonight, Todd, Bam, and I led by example."

"Keeping the lead and not getting our heads down when they made runs was big for us," Doyne said. "It's kind of new for us playing from in front all the way like that."

MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said the three UM seniors were indeed keys to this one and also to the entire Rebel season.

"They made a lot of shots," he said of the three. "They made a lot of shots you want them to take. But they are experienced, and you expect that from them. Their guards (including one point for Eniel Polynice) had 65 of their 85 points."

But the inside game also made a difference for the Rebels, especially in the person of Dwayne Curtis. The junior center had 14 points and pulled down eight rebounds with a blocked shot.

Ole Miss finished the game with an advantage in the rebounding department.

"The rebounding stat was a big key for us," Kennedy said. "We were down four (17-13) at halftime and ended up six for the game, so that's plus 10 in the second half. I thought that was huge."

The Rebels shot 51 percent for the game (29-of-57) including 47 percent (9-19) from 3-point range. From the free throw line, Ole Miss was 18-of-21 for 86 percent.

MSU, which fell to 11-9 and 2-5, shot 46 percent (25-of-55), including 5-of-18 from 3-point land (28 percent) and 18-of-24 from the line (75 percent).

State was led in scoring by Charles Rhodes with 24 points and Jamont Gordon with 20.

Ole Miss plays at Auburn Saturday at 1 p.m., while MSU hosts LSU at 4 p.m.

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