Close but not quite

When David Huertas scored on a 3-point basket to give Ole Miss a 5-point lead with under 5 minutes to go, the Rebels got the ball back and a chance to build that lead. But they couldn't as the visitors from West Virginia ultimately won the game 80-78.

By the 2:33 mark, WVU had scored six straight points, led 72-71, and had gotten back into position to finish, which they did.

The Rebels had fought back and fought back hard, from a 40-33 halftime deficit, to give themselves a chance to win a big early-season contest at home. The crowd, announced at 6,787, was even getting into it as the game wore on.

Had the Rebels been able to have a quality possession and get a basket at 71-66, things might possibly have been different.

But they didn't and so they weren't.

"I thought down the stretch as the game was tight, our guys settled for jump shots and they (Mountaineers) drove to the basket," Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said. "Therefore they got a lot of free throws and got into the teeth of the defense."

West Virginia dominated the glass, especially the offensive boards. The Mountaineers claimed a 36-28 rebounding edge, and on the offensive end it was more dramatic at 22-7.

"It's a possessions game," Kennedy said. "They take 13 more shots than us. They take 10 more free throws than us. You're living on the edge when those things happen."

The Rebels trailed by the final margin but had basketball possession with 6.1 seconds left in the game. Chris Warren drove it down and took a final 3-point shot which hit nothing. Prior to that possession, the Rebels trailed 79-78 and on a throw-in from Terrico White in front of the Ole Miss bench, Warren dribbled it off his leg and out of bounds.

With 25 seconds to go in the game and the Rebels up 78-77, Warren was at the free throw line with a chance to build on that lead. But he missed the front end of a one and the bonus, WVU moved downcourt, Alex Ruoff was fouled, and he hit a couple of free throws to help his team retake the lead at 79-78.

"We depend on him so much," Kennedy said of Warren. "I told him it was easy to amplify what happened at the end – a missed free throw, a turnover."

Kennedy said this one was about so much more than that.

"It was really about giving up so many second-chance points. The game shouldn't have been in that position. We did well enough on our first-shot defense. Their dominance on the offensive glass won the game."

Montaineer Coach Bob Huggins said rebounding is a key to his team's success.

"That's how we survive," he said, his team now 5-1 on the season with the lone loss to Kentucky. "When you miss as many shots as we do, there's a whole bunch of (rebounds) to get."

Kennedy said it's imperative the Rebels get better, especially inside.

"We've got to have some guys grow up in a hurry," he said.

Ole Miss was paced by Huertas with 23 points, followed by Warren with 18, Terrico White with 13, and Murphy Holloway with 11.

Da'Sean Butler had 22 for WVU, and Alex Ruoff had 16.

The Rebels, now 5-2, play at the University of New Orleans Saturday at 2 p.m.

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