Play it Cool

No moment is too big for junior point guard Chris Warren.

Warren, the only Ole Miss player who's numbers have improved in Southeastern Conference play, is rather even-keel. He plays his cards close to the vest. Whether a close game or runaway win in the Rebels' favor, he remains calm and collected.

Far more often than not, emotions don't get the best of the 31st player in program history to reach 1,000 points. Warren enters Saturday's 3 p.m. tipoff with Arkansas with 1,256 career points, three shy of B.L. "Country" Graham for the No. 17 spot on the school charts.

"He's been, by far, our team MVP from day one," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We need some guys to join him and this team can do some things. But he's been the one constant."

During a 72-59 win vs. LSU Thursday, Warren was 5-of-7 in 3-point attempts. His makes all came in the first half where he totaled 15 points, but he finished as the game's leading scorer with 22.

He hasn't committed a turnover in the last two games. On the flip side, he's dished out 12 assists and has made 83 percent of his free throw opportunities. Three other Rebels tie for second with a 70 percent clip.

"We know if we get it to No. 12 and he's got some space, he's pretty good at knocking them down," said Kennedy. "He made five big ones in the first half (against LSU) as we were struggling a little bit offensively, and he got a little help in the second half."

As Kennedy often notes, Warren is the sparkplug of the Ole Miss offense. He's not a traditional point guard, more of a two-guard in a small body, but he makes up for it with volume shooting from the perimeter.

On the season, he's made 90-of-220 attempts (40 percent) from long distance. It's a better success rate than when he set the Ole Miss record for 3-pointers in a season as a freshman. He averaged 19.6 points per game as a sophomore before being injured.

He currently ranks fifth in the SEC with 16.8 points per game.

However, when asked, Warren isn't looking to be the face of the program. When brought up, he often dismisses the notion. As he puts it, he's only doing his part for a team in search of an NCAA Tournament bid – the first for Ole Miss in eight seasons.

"We've got a pretty good shooting team," he said. "You just can't keep shading me and leave good shooters open."

Ole Miss is riding a three-game win streak and is firmly in the March Madness discussion with one regular season game remaining. The Rebels are also jockeying for position in next week's conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn.

As the opportunities for wins steadily dwindle, the magnitude of losses rises. Ole Miss, realistically, is in a win-or-else scenario.

Warren understands it, too. But pressing for enlightening perspective won't work. Again, this isn't the guy for dramatics.

"We never stop talking about (the NCAA Tournament)," Warren said casually. "We never gave up hope. We just keep fighting, still fighting. We'll do our part and hopefully things fall into place."

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