With three weeks left in the regular season, it’s do or die time for Ole Miss’ Men’s Basketball team, and on Saturday afternoon against Arkansas the Rebels showed up and grabbed an important conference victory.
After trailing for most of the first half, Ole Miss turned it up a notch in the second, taking the lead off Marcanvis Hymon’s tip-in, and never trailed the rest of the way.
The Rebels’ scoring leader, Stefan Moody, struggled for much of the afternoon, but ultimately made the shots his teammates are used to him making, leading them to the 76-60 win over the Razorbacks (12-13, 5-7 Southeastern Conference) inside The Pavilion.
Moody scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half on 4-of-9 shooting. The win ties Andy Kennedy with former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury (208) for the fourth-most wins in the SEC in his first 10 years at one program.
Kennedy’s team won the rebounding battle, 47-29, scored 15 points off Arkansas’ 12 turnovers and shot 50 percent in the second half.
Head Coach Andy Kennedy on team effort from the Rebels
Moody scored six straight points to give Ole Miss (16-9, 6-6) the 45-41 lead at the 15:33 mark. Then his teammates joined in on the productivity. Anthony Perez connected on a three-pointer from the top of the key that followed with layups by Hymon and Sebastian Saiz, who was playing in his second straight game after missing six straight games after having eye surgery to repair a detached retina.
Saiz and Perez each added 11 points. Hymon provided his second double-double of the season, 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Two late free throws by Moody gave the Rebels, who went 21-for-22 from the charity stripe, a commanding 65-52 lead with 4:43 to go.
Defensive pressure helps fuel Rebels’ strong second half
But the most important part to Ole Miss’ strong second half had to do with its defensive pressure on the Razorbacks’ top three scorers – Anthlon Bell, Dusty Hannahs and Moses Kingsley. Hannahs fouled out late, going scoreless. Arkansas’ junior big man Kingsley managed only four points in the second half after scoring 15 in the first half.
Bell had 16; however, he shot a dismal 3-for-14 from the field.
“I thought they rose to the occasion in the second half,” Razorbacks’ coach Mike Anderson said. “In the first half, we did a lot of good things with establishing Moses on the inside and I thought our guys fed off of that. I thought our defense kept Ole Miss off key for a while.
“In the second half, it seems like they got a better rhythm and offensively got to the free throw line.”
What started out as a potential blow-out win for the Razorbacks, turned into a shootout once the Rebels were able to find the offensive stability they needed. After trailing by as many as 11 points to hot-shooting Arkansas, Ole Miss outscored the Razorbacks 20-9 to tie the game 28-all.
The run started with back-to-back three-pointers from Perez and Tomasz Gielo, who had 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting. Gielo would add another three from the right wing before freshman guard Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey added one from the right wing to get the Rebels within 26-20. Gielo added two made foul shots, then drained a short jumper.
Two possessions later, Fitzpatrick-Dorsey converted on a 3-point play.
Ole Miss grabbed its first lead of the afternoon off Perez’s second three of the first half. The Rebels led 33-30 for a short moment before Kingsley scored Arkansas’ next six points to give his team the 35-33 advantage. Kingsley was 7-for-8 shooting in the first half.
Senior guard Jabril Durham’s two foul shots sent the Razorbacks, who were coming off a 78-46 loss at Mississippi State on Tuesday night, into the locker room with a 37-35 lead, but they couldn’t muster anything after that.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well in the second half and that’s something we have to figure out to put two halves together,” Anderson said. “I thought our defense, at times, was good enough. Then you got to get those long rebounds. They just out-hustled us.”
Rebels travel to No. 15 Texas A&M on Tuesday.
Arkansas hosts Auburn on Wednesday.
Feature image credit: Ellen O’Nan, Ole Miss Athletics