Rocky Toppled

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With 16 minutes remaining, Chris Warren was serenaded by the raucous, orange-clad crowd of 21,846 inside Thompson-Boiling Arena. "Air ball, air ball" was echoed into the diminutive guard's direction. It took just more than a half for Warren to become the primary target – a target because the freshman was torching Tennessee.

Warren dazzled offensively in his first career Southeastern Conference road start with a career-high 24 points including 15 in the first half when he directed an exceptional period from the point position and kept No. 13 Ole Miss (13-1, 0-1) rallying with 50 percent outside shooting.

The No. 8 Vols (13-1, 1-0) and Rebels traded blows for the full 40 minutes before Tennessee's Tyler Smith connected on a layup with 4.2 seconds remaining to push the home team to an 85-83 win. Warren attempted a mid-court buzzer beater as time expired, but the ball bounced off the glass as fans rushed the floor.

"We played all right, but I can't say we played well if we lose," a downtrodden Warren said outside the lockeroom. "It is all about winning, and we didn't make enough plays. Nobody is talking in there right now."

Tennessee bested the Rebels with uncanny accuracy from long-range in the second half. However, Ole Miss and its floor general more than proved that the school-record start was far from a fluke and all about a team that is talented and set up for success.

The Volunteers stretched their advantage to double-digits on multiple occasions during the second session, but the still-green Rebels fought back and closed the game to one possession in a hostile environment that can't be prepared for.

"We weren't going to let the crowd and the environment affect us," Warren added.

Coach Andy Kennedy said the freshman is getting better every time out, but that the few freshmen mistakes are still evident. Those include five turnovers to one assist and committing three personal fouls.

Warren lost his touch at times late but stayed in the flow of the game and kept pushing the action against the adversity.

"Obviously, I didn't do enough," Warren said.

The first-year player finished 7-18 from the field and 6-7 from the charity stripe. Warren played a game-high 34 minutes.

Ole Miss returns home to face LSU (7-8, 0-1) at 5 p.m. Sunday in the Rebels' SEC home opener. Kennedy expects the fans and media to call the UT loss a moral victory, but the headman refuses to acknowledge such.

"I appreciate the team being ranked, and it is a good thing for our kids, but I don't get all caught up in that," Kennedy noted. "I know the mood in that room. People are going to take a moral victory, but we are way beyond that at Ole Miss. I know people don't want to believe that. That group is crushed in there. I have grown men crying. We have to bounce back."

The bounce back will be attempted Saturday, and Warren will be on the front line of that effort.

Experience not necessarily necessary.

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