Rebs Win SEC Home Opener

Arkansas came in as the perceived hot team, while Ole Miss was supposed to be the team searching for an identity. After a 74-65 SEC home opening win, it's the Rebels who seem to be finding themselves, and the Razorbacks who aren't what they once were.

Ole Miss, improving to 10-6 overall and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play, never trailed the Hogs (12-3, 0-2) Wednesday night in Oxford. Much of the time the Rebs led by quite a bit.

Two 21-point leads were reduced each time by the Razorbacks, who got within striking distance, especially the first time.

Back to back 3-point baskets from Terrico White and David Huertas stopped the bleeding that started in the first half and had spilled over into the second. Arkansas, trailing 34-24 at halftime, was on a 17-2 run to cut the UM lead to 34-28 when White and Huertas came through with their treys to expand the lead to 12 at 40-28.

When Ole Miss stretched it back out to 21 again, this time at 53-32, the Hogs got on another roll, although not as productive as the first one had been. Arkansas got it down to 13 points at 57-44 and had some momentum.

But Razorback Stefan Welsh was called for a foul (his third personal) defending Huertas on a 3-pointer that missed with 6:11 left. Welsh was then immediately whistled for a technical (his fourth personal), which sent Huertas to the line for five free throws. He made the first four and Arkansas got the rebound on the fifth.

Down 61-44, the damage was too much for the Hogs to overcome in the final six minutes. The UM lead was back out to 18 on three occasions. By the time Arkansas got it whittled down to a workable nine points at 72-63, only 20 seconds remained.

"We got off to a great start," said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy. "One thing about having a young group, they've got short memories. Despite us losing in Gainesville (78-68 to Florida last Saturday), we finished the game there on a pretty good note. We were really very competitive after what we went through to start the game down there. So our guys were looking forward to this opportunity.

"Our approach was tremendous early (against Arkansas)," Kennedy continued. "We made some shots. We started feeling good about ourselves. As all good teams do, Arkansas made a run to close the half. I thought we started the second half on a good note, and save for the last couple of minutes (at the end of the game), it was a good half for us on both sides of the ball."

Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey, his team once on the brink of a Top 25 ranking, now finds his troops in a bit of an early hole.

"It's interesting going from where we were to where we are," said Pelphrey, the second-year UA head coach. "We're certainly in a different place now than we were two games ago."

Prior to a home loss to Mississippi State last Saturday, Arkansas had made some national noise by beating two teams ranked in the top 10 at the time in Oklahoma and Texas.

Will Bogan started at point guard again for Ole Miss, but it was another true freshman, Terrico White, who directed things much of the night, playing 30 of the games' 40 minutes. He led four Rebels in double figures, scoring 18 points with three assists and only one turnover.

Huertas had 16 points for the Rebels, while Zach Graham had 12 and Murphy Holloway 11.

Courtney Fortson led the Hogs with 24, and Jason Henry had 19.

Ole Miss shot 43 percent from the field (24-56), and the Razorbacks also shot 43 percent (23-53).

From 3-point range, the Rebels were a solid 7-17 (41 percent), and Arkansas was just 3-15 (20 percent).

At the free throw line, both teams were fairly productive with Ole Miss 19-23 (83 percent) and Arkansas 16-24 (67 percent).

The Rebels again won the battle of the boards, this time by a 36-34 margin overall and by one rebound each on the offensive end (13-12) and the defensive glass (23-22).

Ole Miss, beating Arkansas in Oxford for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons, had 15 turnovers to 14 for the visitors.

Pelphrey said that while his team, in his words, "overachieved" in the non-conference portion of the season, the game Wednesday night was as much about Ole Miss as it was his squad.

"I congratulate Andy's basketball team," he said. "Those guys were well organized. They played hard. They made baskets and they chased it. I thought they played very well. It's a tribute to him and those young men."

Arkansas, which travels to Florida Saturday, left Oxford reeling a bit. Ole Miss hosts LSU Saturday and is finding its identity more and more with each passing game.

Tipoff for Ole Miss-LSU is 3 p.m. Cotton Bowl representatives will be at the game to officially present Ole Miss the Cotton Bowl trophy.


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