Never Say Never

Things looked bleak for the Ole Miss basketball team in Fayetteville, but once again the Rebels found some comeback magic and clipped the Arkansas Razorbacks at the end, 68-66, to secure the No. 2 seed in the West in the SEC Tournament and inch closer to a possible NCAA Tournament bid. Read about it inside.

With a little less than 4 minutes to go in the Ole Miss-Arkansas game in Fayetteville Saturday afternoon, it wasn't looking too spiffy for the Rebels.

The visitors trailed 65-56 and hadn't scored in nearly four minutes.

Then, magic. . . .

Out of nowhere, the Chris Warren-led Rebels reeled off 10 straight points, gained a 66-65 lead with 53 ticks left and held on for a 68-66 victory that catapulted Andy Kennedy's squad to the number two seed - and an opening round bye - in the upcoming SEC Tourney.

"These kids battled and battled and battled. We left a lot of plays out there on the floor, but they didn't give in," said Kennedy postgame. "We finished the game with great defensive stops and effective possessions on offense and we were able to pull one, another one, out at the end."

The Razorbacks, despite Warren lighting them up throughout the game, seemed in total control of the game most of the way, leading from wire-to-almost-wire, sometimes by as many as a dozen points.

But the final four minutes were wrapped in Red & Blue.

Sophomore Terrance Henry started things off by canning two free throws to make it 65-58 Hogs.

Out of nowhere, Terrico White, who had a terrible afternoon shooting and was in foul trouble most of the game, netted a big three-pointer to make it 65-61 Pigs with 2:55 to go.

The Rebs, seeing light at the end of the tunnel, had another stop and then Trevor Gaskins, who came off the bench to contribute 13 points, nailed a short shot to trim the UA lead to two.

Then, the play of the game. Sophomore Murphy Holloway drew a foul and went to the line for a bonus opportunity. He missed short, but Henry grabbed the long rebound and flipped to Warren beyond the three-point arc.

Money. . .

"Terrance kept the play alive and alertly saw Chris, who shifted a little out of traffic when he saw the rebound. Chris caught the pass in rhythm and buried it," said Kennedy, whose team is now 21-9 overall and finished the SEC regular season at 9-7 thanks to winning their last four in a row.

Gaskins and Warren each made 1-2 free throws at the end and Holloway swatted away Arkansas' last attempt at the goal to tie the game and force overtime.

"Tremendous comeback," said A.K. "Again, never say never."

Arkansas controlled the game from the start and for basically 36 minutes. There was never a lead change until Warren's trey with 53 seconds to go in the game.

But the Rebels lurked. Ole Miss cut the 43-33 haltime deficit to two, 43-41, to open the second stanza on the strength of 8 straight points by Warren.

Arkansas then gradually opened the lead back up while Ole Miss went four minutes without scoring, building the 65-56 margin.

The Rebels, playing without suspended starter Eniel Polynice and suspended backup De'Angelo Riley, then started their winning run.

A key in the game was the inside play of the Rebels bigs. In Oxford, the Arkansas tandem of Washington and Powell combined for 42 points. Today, they were limited to 17 points as Rebel inside men Reggie Buckner blocked 4 shots and Holloway rejected 3.

Warren was, hands down, the man of the hour with 31 points, a career high in conference games. The 5-10 junior point guard was 11-17 from the field and literally had no conscience in bringing his team back from the hoops graveyard.

"What more can I say about Chris? Who came through? The team MVP - Chris Warren," Kennedy noted. "He cold-blooded, thank goodness."

Chris was not alone in the heroics, however. Gaskins' offensive contribution was also noted and needed. Trevor sustained a stinger in the LSU game Thursday night, but he was game and effective against the Hogs.

And what about Holloway? Check this line score - 6 points, 3 blocks, 11 rebounds and 6 steals. The scoring aside, Murph did it all.

Henry added 6 points and made some big plays in the game as well.

Arkansas was paced by outside sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke, who ended with 13 points, and Marcus Britt with 12. Julius Nobles, a frosh from Jackson, MS, added 11 points.

Courtney Fortson, the Pigs' version of Warren, scored 8 points in the first half but none in the second half before fouling out late in the game.

The Rebels outscored Arkansas 35-23 in the second half.

Now, Ole Miss heads to Nashville and will have a first-round bye as the West No. 2 seed. They will take on the winner of Thursday's Tennessee-LSU game at 2:15 p.m. on Friday, March 12.

And, if you've been keeping up at all, you better watch the whole 40 minutes.

These Rebels never say never.

"We've got a lot more basketball to play and more to prove, but at least our destiny is in our own hands," said Kennedy. "That's all a coach can ask for in March."


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