March 5, 2011 10:09:00 PM
OXFORD -- In a season characterized by inconsistency, the University of Mississippi men''s basketball team appears to have gotten hot again at the right time.
Chris Warren scored 24 points and handed out nine assists as the Rebels connected on 14 3-point shots to defeat the University of Arkansas 84-74 Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"We''re capable. We''re very capable. We just haven''t been consistent. But today''s game was what you want before the tournament," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. "If we get production from our front line, then maybe we can stay around Atlanta for a while."
Atlanta is the site of the Southeastern Conference tournament, for which the Rebels (19-12, 7-9) earned the Western''s Division No. 3 seed. Ole Miss will face South Carolina, the Eastern Division''s No. 6 seed, in Thursday''s opening round. Arkansas (18-12, 7-9) is the Western Division''s No. 4 seed and will open with the Eastern Division''s No. 5 seed.
"It''s one game momentum," Warren said. "But we were in rhythm today. When we play defense and make shots like we did today, well, there''s a lot of things that can happen. There is a lot of basketball left."
The Rebels made shots consistently from 3-point range, finishing 14 of 22 (63.6 percent). Zach Graham was 5 of 6 and finished with 15 points and three assists. Terrance Henry and Dundrecous Nelson added 13 and 10 points, respectively, for Ole Miss.
Rotnei Clarke scored 26 points, 19 in the second half, to lead the Razorbacks. Marshawn Powell scored 14 points and Julysses Nobles added 13, all in the first half.
"It''s a tough finish," said Arkansas coach John Pelphrey, whose club closed with losses to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. "We see how close it is from a No. 2 seed and a No. 4 seed. Defensively, we just weren''t good enough to cool them off."
Ole Miss snapped an early 9-9 tie by hitting five consecutive 3-point shots, including a pair from reserve guard Trevor Gaskins, to build a 24-15 lead. The Rebels led 43-37 at halftime.
Arkansas pulled within one point twice in the second half, the final time at 53-52 on a 3-pointer by Clarke with 14 minutes, 35 seconds left. Clarke finished 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
Ole Miss answered with a decisive 21-6 run, highlighted by three-point shots from Warren and Graham, to build an insurmountable 74-57 lead with 6:44 left. Arkansas never got closer than 10 points again.
"No team really had control until that surge," Kennedy said. "We put together three or four stops with three or four baskets. I thought it was a fitting end for Warren and Graham in their last regular-season home game."
Arkansas finished 27 of 62 from the field (43.5 percent), including 10 of 18 from 3-point range. Clarke and Nobles combined to make 8 of 11 from 3-point range, but the Razorbacks had 11 shots blocked, including seven by Reginald Buckner.
"It sounds crazy, but it''s almost like the difference in the game was the blocked shots," Pelphrey said. "They had 11 again."
Ole Miss blocked 11 shots in a 69-60 win at Arkansas on Feb.5 for a season sweep of the Razorbacks.
2. Howland likes MSU's non-conference schedule COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Walters column: Prep football season coming closer LOCAL COLUMNS