Finding A Way - Again

SOUTHAVEN – Big second half runs by both teams sent Wednesday night's thriller into overtime as No. 20 Ole Miss beat Texas-El Paso 91-81.

Ole Miss led 53-44 when UTEP went on a 26-5 run. With 5:31 left Myron Strong made a reverse layup to give the Miners a 70-58 lead.

That's when Ole Miss went to work doing what it appears to do best, make a late comeback for victory.

The Rebels went on a 14-0 run to lead 72-70 with 20 seconds to go. But an Arnett Moultrie layup to tie it and a Zach Graham 3-point miss sent this one into an extra period.

It was Graham that got the Rebels jump-started in overtime with a 3-pointer for a 75-72 lead. The lead later expanded to nine points on 3-of-4 free throws by Chris Warren - two of them a technical on UTEP's Myron Strong - for an 87-78 edge with 48 seconds to go in OT.

The Rebels, who had entered the game as a suspect free throw shooting team, were 14-of-16 in overtime at the free throw line, including 9-of-10 by Warren.

"We got the ball in the right hands," said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy after his team was 31-of-42 at the line for the game.

Ole Miss, now 9-1 on the season, was down 15 points in the second half against McNeese State last Saturday and won 83-67. Against Southern Miss a week earlier, the Rebels were down six points with a minute left and won 81-79, also in regulation.

Wednesday night, it took a little longer. But they found a way again.

"One thing I can say with all assurance is that our team never panics," Kennedy said. "We're just riding this wave."

It has certainly become a wavy ride lately.

"We play excellent basketball for periods of time," Kennedy said. "Then we go from excellent to horrible and then back to excellent. I'd like to stay out of horrible. We have these huge swings."

UTEP head coach Tony Barbee, his team now 5-2 on the season, said this one was not easy to take.

"Tough one to swallow. Tough one to swallow," Barbee said. "We had our opportunities. You have to take this as a learning experience. I never like to learn from a loss. You can't play not to lose. You have to play to win. Give them credit. They made plays down the stretch."

Warren had a career high with 32 points and was 13-of-15 from the line for the game. He was also 5-of-10 from 3-point range.

Freshman Reginald Buckner also had a career high with 11 points, along with three blocked shots and six rebounds.

The Rebels jumped out to a commanding 12-2 lead in the first half and appeared to be on their way. A Warren 3-pointer gave them the 10-point edge four minutes in. There would be much more to come from Warren.

The junior point guard led all scorers in the opening half with 17 points, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. The Rebels as a team in the first half were 6-of-11 from outside the arc. UTEP, meanwhile, was only 2-of-11. For the game, Ole Miss was 12-of-26 from 3-point land, compared to 6-of-24 for UTEP.

The Miners got back in it quickly and cut the gap to 17-16, but never took the lead in the first half. A couple of Eniel Polynice free throws late in the period pushed Ole Miss out to a 35-28 advantage and later two Terrico White free throws expanded the lead to 39-30.

At halftime Ole Miss led 41-33.

Randy Culpepper, one of five Memphians on the UTEP squad, ended the game as his team's leading scorer with 19 points. Four Miners finished in double figures.

UTEP had an edge in rebounding 41 to 40. The Miners were 19-of-29 from the charity stripe.

Ole Miss maintained its lead in the second half and was up nine points (53-44) when the Miners went on a run. A drive and layup by Myron Strong put the Miners in front for the first time all night 54-53 with 13 minutes to go.

UTEP moved on to complete the 26-5 run and lead by 12 with four minutes remaining.

That's when things got quite interesting, and that's also when things started heading back the Rebels' way - like in several recent games.

"We came back strong," said White, who hit back to back 3-pointers in regulation to pull the Rebels to within striking distance at five points, trailing just 70-65. "I knew I had to make them. My confidence was up on the second one and it went in."

And not many minutes later, this one went into the win column for an Ole Miss team that continues to find a way.

OM Spirit Top Stories