Freshmen Help No. 22 Rebels Upend No. 18 Commodores 74-58
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Chris Warren scored 20 points, Eniel Polynice added 18 and Ole Miss' freshmen had one of their best games of the season in the 22nd-ranked Rebels' 74-58 victory against No. 18 Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
Led by Warren, freshmen scored 18 of Ole Miss' first 26 points in the pivotal opening minutes of the second half as the Rebels (16-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) snapped a two-game losing streak and sent the Commodores (17-4, 2-4) to their fourth loss in five games.
The game was vital for two teams slumping after setting school records for consecutive wins to start the season.
The win snapped a six-game losing streak to Vanderbilt and helps the Rebels remain in the SEC West race behind one-loss Mississippi State after a brutal January run that included three ranked opponents.
Another slow start doomed Vanderbilt. The Commodores trailed the Rebels 29-26 at halftime. It was third time in the four losses they failed to reach 30 points in the first half and followed a 22-point loss at Florida where they scored just six points in the first 11 1/2 minutes.
The Rebels, in one of their best defensive efforts of the season, held the Commodores to 32.3 percent shooting in the first half and 34.9 percent overall. Vanderbilt missed 41 shots and 20 3-pointers after coming in as the nation's No. 8 scoring offense averaging 83.9 points per game.
Shan Foster finished with 14 for Vanderbilt and A.J. Ogilvy had 10, but both were held below their season averages for the second straight week. Kenny Williams added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Ole Miss and had a crucial steal and transition dunk with six minutes left that helped the Rebels pull away.
In his first start, freshman guard Zach Graham scored nine points and may have provided the answer at shooting guard for the Rebels. His five straight points to open the second half were part of a halftime spanning 19-5 run that helped Ole Miss break open the game.
Fellow freshman Warren also had five points in the run and Trevor Gaskins, another freshman, scored three of his nine points on a 3-point shot to end the run, putting Ole Miss up 44-31 with 14:45 minutes remaining.
While Ole Miss' freshmen found their range, Polynice pounded the Commodores in the paint. Ten of his 12 first-half points came on acrobatic driving layups and his steal and dunk with about three minutes left iced the win.
Ole Miss tied the school mark for best start through 19 games and snapped a six-game losing streak to Vanderbilt. The Rebels improved to 26-1 at home in two years under Andy Kennedy. The home team has won 19 of the last 22 in the series.
All of Vanderbilt's losses have come away from home as the Commodores open the conference schedule with six of nine games on the road after starting a school-record 16-0.
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