February 1, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Somewhere in the back of the minds of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, they knew it wasn''t going to be as easy as they made it look in the first 10 minutes of Saturday''s game against the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Bulldogs stormed out to a 25-13 lead in the first half against the Rebels, but a good start didn''t equal a victory.
Ole Miss overcame the early deficit to rally and beat Mississippi State 67-63 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Ole Miss worked its way back with a 16-2 run to take a 28-27 advantage with 5 minutes and 18 seconds remaining in the first half.
Although the Rebels fell behind 37-33 at the half, they never allowed Mississippi State to regain the momentum to claim the victory.
After beating Kentucky 85-80 at home on Tuesday, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was proud to see his team respond on the road.
"This was a huge step forward as it relates to the psyche of our group," Kennedy said. "Tuesday''s game was about us being efficient and we had great approach to the game. I thought our approach was good (Saturday), but we were not nearly as efficient. We still found a way to win, which tells me this team is starting to get it.
"I think we''re becoming a little more comfortable making the plays that are out there."
Terrico White led Ole Miss (12-9 overall, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) with 18 points, while David Huertas scored 16 points.
"We knew this was a rivalry game," Huertas said. "It felt great (to win) because we needed this win. We came out with great energy and got the win."
Mississippi State (14-7, 4-2) hit a brick wall at the 10-minute mark of the first half and could never recover.
"Give Ole Miss credit, they played better than we did and deserved to win the game," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. "They jumped up and made some plays when they had to. In the second half, we couldn''t make enough shots."
After shooting 39 percent (12 of 31) from the field in the first half, Mississippi State shot only 22 percent (5 of 23) in the second half, including 19 percent (3 of 16) from 3-point range.
The Bulldogs jumped out to the 25-13 lead with the long-range shooting of Ravern Johnson, Barry Stewart and Phil Turner. Johnson and Stewart made two 3-pointers each, while Turner made one during that stretch.
"We started out with a lot of momentum," Johnson said. "We came out and everybody was knocking down shots. Everybody was into it, but I guess as the game progressed, they brought the lead down and we got out of sync."
From 10:32 left in the first half until the 1:46 mark, Ole Miss held Mississippi State without a field goal.
"We quit making shots and they made shots," Stansbury said. "That''s the way it goes."
Kennedy said switching to a zone defense made the difference.
"I thought our zone was very good to us," Kennedy said. "After we got through the initial barrage, we settled in and our defense helped us stay in the game throughout the first half."
The Rebels took their first lead at 28-27 with 5:18 remaining in the first half on a 3-pointer by White.
But the Bulldogs were able to regain the advantage at halftime.
Once Ole Miss regained the lead at 46-44 at the 14:33 mark of the second half, it did not trail again in the game.
Also scoring in double figures for the Rebels were Zach Graham with 13 points and Malcolm White with 11 points.
"This is a kid who has not practiced in two weeks, nor will he the remainder of the season because of a partially torn patella tendon and he doesn''t practice," Kennedy said of Graham. "He comes in (practice), shoots free throws, then we get him treatment and try to get him conditioned as much as possible."
Johnson led Mississippi State with 20 points, while Dee Bost had 13 points and Stewart scored 10 points.
Mississippi State''s Jarvis Varnado had 15 rebounds, but only scored eight points, had one block and committed four turnovers for the Bulldogs.
Despite looking a bit tired at times in the second half and Stansbury even saying that seemed to be the case, Varnado denied it.
"I''m not wore out," Varnado said. "I''ve just got to be a better player."
Mississippi State plays at Kentucky on Tuesday, while Ole Miss'' next game is Wednesday at home against Auburn.