Too Much WVU

Ole Miss got beat badly on the boards and ultimately lost 76-66 at West Virginia Wednesday night.

The No. 6 ranked Mountaineers pulled away from the No. 15 ranked Rebels in the second half thanks to 3-point shooting by Wellington Smith.

The 6-foot-7 senior had five 3-pointers all season. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, he matched that with five more. Smith led his team in scoring for the game with 19.

The Rebels were down only 29-26 at halftime but were getting pounded on the boards, especially offensively where WVU led 17-6 at intermission. When it was over, West Virginia had a 52-33 edge in board work, and the Rebels couldn't overcome that along with a poor shooting night from the outside.

Ole Miss was a dismal 5-24 from 3-point range, while WVU was 9-20 from beyond the arc. But it was the rebounding stat that Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said was unacceptable.

"It was very disappointing," the fourth-year UM head coach said. "We talked about it at length and knew it was going to be a dogfight. Unfortunately our guys had to experience it. One thing then led to another for us."

Kennedy is concerned about the lack of point production on a consistent basis from some players and from his team generally.

"We're not scoring consistently which puts a lot of pressure on your defense. We were a step late in the second half. We let Wellington Smith, their center, come out and make five 3-pointers. We've got some real issues we've got to address, and we'll go to work on that on the 26th (of December)."

By the time Smith hit his fifth 3 pointer of the second half, the Mountaineers led 52-43. Their biggest lead would be 16 points at 65-51 with 7:20 to go on a layup by Devan Ebanks.

The Rebels hung in there and got it back to an eight-point margin but couldn't close it further.

Zach Graham led Ole Miss with 14 points, followed by Eniel Polynice and Murphy Holloway with 13.

Two key stats: Chris Warren had 10 points, and Terrico White had nine. The Rebels will struggle when their two most productive guards are so limited in the scoring department.

"We had the right approach but we just got outrebounded," Polynice said. "We have to go back to practice and work on boxing out drills and get refocused. We played hard, and I think we can play with anybody in the country. We just have to regroup and pay attention to detail, and I think we'll be alright."

After Smith's 19 points for WVU, Ebanks had 14 and Kevin Jones 12.

WVU Coach Bob Huggins said he was pleased with his team defensively, especially since it almost lost the last time out to Cleveland State, a slim 80-78 Mountaineer victory.

"Defensively we were a world's better than what we were last Saturday," said Huggins, his team now 9-0. "I thought we rebounded the ball well today."

Certainly that was the case, and the Rebels have work to do in that department.

"The one thing they were doing was turning it over," said Kennedy of the Mountaineers' 18 miscues to the Rebels' 10 in the contest. "So we felt like maybe we could counteract the fact that they were just destroying us on both glasses. But we just never got into a rhythm, missing some open shots, some free throws. It was discouraging."

Kennedy hopes his team takes something positive from the evening, given the fact that with more than 11,000 fans, the Big East arena had a Southeastern Conference feel to it for this one.

"I certainly hope we can learn a lesson from it," he said.

And then he added this.

"The sliver lining to me is it's Christmas. We're all blessed. We're healthy. We're happy. We've got a full team. We've got good kids. We're 10-2 and nationally ranked. We come home with two games non-league before we have the (Mississippi State) Bulldogs in our house to start SEC play. Maybe the Rebel fans will come out and support us and give us a homecourt advantage like we played in tonight.

"I still like us, and we've got some work to do," Kennedy added. "But through 12 games we've done what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to have a fun January, February, and hopefully deep into March."

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