Rising Rebels End Road Skid At Mississippi State 67-63

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By CHRIS TALBOTT - Associated Press Writer

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Ole Miss' young lineup is gaining maturity fast.

Freshman Terrico White scored 18 points and sophomores Zach Graham and Malcolm White had 13 and 11 to lead the Rebels to 67-63 victory over Mississippi State, winning in Starkville for the first time since 1998. The trio continues to push Ole Miss to unexpected success after a string of seemingly devastating injuries depleted the roster.

"In the summer we knew they had the potential to win," Ole Miss' David Huertas said of the underclassmen. "They didn't have the experience, but after 20 games they're all grown up."

And it's showing this week. The Rebels (12-9, 3-4 SEC) started out Tuesday with an 85-80 upset of No. 24 Kentucky. They faced an even bigger challenge on the road in Starkville, where Ole Miss has had little success in the Southeastern Conference's most-played rivalry.

The win snapped a 10-game losing streak at Mississippi State (14-7, 4-2) and was just the third win on the road in the series since 1984. It was coach Rick Stansbury's first home loss against Ole Miss in 11 seasons.

The Rebels overcame a slow start by tightening down the defense on the Bulldogs, a rare reversal against a team known for its stifling defense. And it looked early as if Mississippi State would smother Ole Miss again, jumping out to leads of 9-0 and 25-12.

Coach Andy Kennedy "called a timeout and he yelled at us," said Huertas, who finished with 16 points. "He went crazy."

Ole Miss then countered with a 16-2 run and outscored its rival 20-8 while holding Mississippi State without a field goal for 8:44 to trail 37-33 at halftime. The Rebels held the Bulldogs without a field goal for stretches of 8:27 and 6:56 - totaling 15:23 with just one field goal - to pull away.

As he did in Ole Miss' upset of Kentucky, Huertas - the team's leading scorer and only returning starter left on the roster - started slowly with six points and not much of a presence in the first half. But he hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a crucial 10-1 run early in the second half that gave the Rebels the lead for good. The SEC's No. 3 scorer also hit a driving layup midway through the half that gave Ole Miss a 54-48 lead, it's biggest of the game.

Terrico White also had a strong second half, scoring 12 points and using his 6-foot-5 frame to full advantage on a handful of stop-and-pop field goals to help Ole Miss pull away.

Both Kennedy and Stansbury credited the Ole Miss' 2-3 zone defense for the cold stretches.

"They play a lot of zone, so you have to make some shots," Stansbury said. "You have to get the ball inside. We went 3-for-16 from the 3-point line in the second half. We shot too many 3-pointers and didn't get it inside enough."

That focus on 3s helped Ole Miss hold leading scorer Jarvis Varnado to eight points, five below his average, though he had 15 rebounds. Only Ravern Johnson was really connecting from the outside, hitting four 3s on the way to 20 points. Dee Bost added 13 and Barry Stewart scored 10.

Overall the Bulldogs hit just 31.5 percent of their shots (17-of-54) and only had five field goals in the second half on the way to 26 points. And the Rebels did that without their two best defenders, Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice, lost for the season to knee injuries.

But the Rebels are no longer thinking about the players they don't have.

"In the beginning I was worried, I'm not going to lie," Huertas said. "Now I see the guys believe in themselves."


 

 

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