Finishing Strong

Ole Miss trailed McNeese State 15 points with 16 minutes to go and somehow found a way. In a big way, the Rebels won 83-67 Saturday afternoon.

But Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy was not pleased at the end of this one, as his team improved to 8-1.

"It's unacceptable," he said. "We came out lethargic. But I honestly didn't think right out of the gate, we were very sluggish. We missed some chip shots, and then allowed that to make us jog back defensively. We left their perimeter scorers open and they made shots. That fed the fire for them."

It was a fire that appeared might not stop. McNeese State made 10 3-pointers and was had Ole Miss on its proverbial heels. But midway through the second half, things changed.

"We averted a disaster by playing about 15 minutes of pretty good basketball," said Kennedy. "We've got to learn from this and move forward."

The key moments for Ole Miss came in the form of a 16-0 run in the second half. The Rebels trailed 47-32 with 16 minutes left, and the outcome seemed bleak.

But like good teams do, Ole Miss responded. It was the way the 25th-ranked Rebels said they should have played the entire game. But it took a while for them to shake the exam-week blies, it appears.

"We had a lack of energy (in the first half)," said Eniel Polynice, who contributed 12 points and three rebounds in 23 minutes of action. "It seemed like we weren't taking them seriously at all. We can't take any team lightly. We have to come out with the right mindset and approach every team the same way. We didn't do that in the first half."

With five turnovers and 35.7 percent shooting in the first half, Ole Miss trailed 34-28 at intermission to the Cowboys. From the 3-point line, the Rebels were good on only 5-of-14 attempts.

Early in the second half, things remained the same. After two DeAundre Cranston free throws cut the deficit to 34-30, the Cowboys, who fell to 3-5, pulled away again. A 10-0 run by MSU put the visitors up 44-30 with 17 minutes to go.

But Ole Miss began to chip away at the Cowboy lead. Down by 14, a 3-pointer by Terrico White sparked a 16-0 run. Polynice was also key, adding eight points and a steal which lead to fast-break points.

After the Rebels finally got the lead at 61-59 on a layup by Polynice, the Cowboys never got it back.

Polynice had nine assists in the contest. In one 16 minute stretch in the second half, the junior guard was good on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor.

"It was probably his best game," Kennedy said. "He changed the entire tempo and made some plays defensively. He facilitated the majority of the baskets for us in the end."

Chris Warren led Ole Miss with 20 points. Murphy Holloway had 13 points and five rebounds.

Patrick Richard paced MSU with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Ole Miss plays Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Southaven Wednesday against Texas-El Paso.

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