Mississippi 76, No. 3 Arkansas 71
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) _ No big deal. Third-ranked Arkansas trailed lowly Mississippi by just three points at halftime.
Only this time, the Rebels didn’t fold as they traditionally have in their uneventful basketball history.
``We wanted it more. I believe that Arkansas thought that we would lay over and let them run right over us and give them the victory,″ Ole Miss forward John Jackson said.
Instead, Fred Johnigan scored five points in the last 1:01, including a three-point play with 21 seconds left, and the Rebels beat road-weary Arkansas 76-71 Wednesday night.
Johnigan’s last basket and free throw came after Corey Beck’s 3-pointer with 33 seconds left pulled the Razorbacks within 73-71.
Ole Miss (4-5), which had lost three straight games, including setbacks against Bradley and McNeese State, took the lead with a 14-3 run midway through the first half. The Rebels led 36-33 at halftime.
Alex Dillard’s 3-pointer with five seconds left before halftime pulled the Razorbacks within three, but the momentum didn’t carry over into the second half. Ole Miss scored the first six points after the break.
``This team is maturing and growing up fast,″ third-year Rebels coach Rob Evans said. ``We are an aggressive team that showed patience on both ends of the court. Those are signs of a team growing up.″
Ole Miss has played just one NCAA tournament game in its history, a first-round loss in 1981. Since that time, the Rebels have had just five winning seasons.
The Razorbacks (11-2), who had won 11 straight since a season-opening loss to Massachusetts, had won the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii four days earlier, beating Iowa 101-92 in the title game.
``The Hawaii trip may have taken its toll on us,″ Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. ``That’s the only thing that I can think of to explain our sluggish play.″
It was the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Arkansas, the defending national champion, had battled back to tie the game 52-52 on Dillard’s 3-pointer with 11:41 left. It was his third 3-pointer and 11th point in a five-minute stretch.
Dillard, who had been in a season-long slump, led Arkansas with 16 points. He had scored in double figures just twice this season, and was shooting 28 percent from the field.
Jackson’s 18 points led four Rebels in double figures. Johnigan had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Arkansas, which had won 29 of its previous 34 games against Ole Miss, including the last 12, took its last lead with 6:30 left when Corliss Williamson scored after Jackson slipped down in the paint.
Just 34 seconds later, Williamson missed two free throws. Cedric Brim and Jackson followed with layups and Ole Miss never trailed again.
Arkansas hit just 26 of 66 shots (39.4 percent), its worst shooting performance since opening the season at 38.4 against UMass.
Clint McDaniel missed the game for Arkansas with a sore toe. The senior had started all 12 previous games, and is shooting 54.3 percent on the season.
David Johnson and Anthony Boone both had 12 points for Ole Miss. Johnigan also had 14 rebounds as the Rebels outrebounded the Razorbacks 52-40.
``Rebounding is nothing but work, and Ole Miss outworked us tonight,″ Richardson said. ``We did not put forth a good effort, but you’ve got to give Ole Miss the credit for a great win for their program.″
Scotty Thurman, Beck and Williamson all had 13 points for Arkansas. Williamson also had eight rebounds.
``This is not the end of our season,″ Beck promised.