By Benjamin Garrett/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss entered Sunday’s non-league matchup with Southeastern Louisiana as a heavy favorite.
Well into the second half, it was playing like the underdog.
The Rebels, who trailed by four at halftime, led by a slim, one-point advantage with just over seven minutes to go in the game. But Chris Warren capped an 11-0 run with a 3-pointer and Ole Miss (11-3) went on to a 69-58 victory.
“I thought we came out a little flat offensively,” head coach Andy Kennedy said. “As a result, the whole game was played at their pace. We played into their hands, and ended up grinding it out.”
Southeastern Louisiana (6-6) pulled within six twice in the second half, including 65-59 with less than a minute left. Zach Graham responded with a layup plus the free throw to seal the win in front of over 4,000 fans.
Warren led four Rebels in double-figure points with 22 on 7-of-15 shooting. He also tallied six assists to just three turnovers.
“One of the coaches, at the beginning of the game, said we looked like we weren’t ready to play. I disagreed with him,” Warren said. “The coaches were right. We came out sluggish, slow. It ended up being a good game.”
Reginald Buckner played his first game since the team’s trip to Cancun, Mexico, over the Christmas holidays. The sophomore forward had been battling a sore knee, limiting him in practice.
Buckner finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds over 31 minutes for his second career double-double.
“I thought he was really good,” Kennedy said. “His energy was outstanding. He’s getting better offensively. He’s getting a little more comfortable.”
Ole Miss shot 48 percent from the floor for the game, compared to 38 percent for the Lions. The Rebels also held the edge in rebounding, 68-59.
Southeastern Louisiana (6-6) was led by Gary Dixon’s 19 points. Trent Hutchin added 16, including two 3-pointers during the Lions’ late run.
Ole Miss travels to Dallas on Wednesday to square off with SMU. It’s the final non-conference game for Ole Miss before it opens its conference schedule at Florida on Saturday night.