By Noah Trister/The Associated Press
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas left Chris Warren open one time too many.
Warren scored 31 points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute that gave Mississippi its first lead, and the Rebels rallied from a late nine-point deficit to beat Arkansas 68-66 Saturday.
“We were struggling in a lot of areas, but thank goodness not him,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He’s been our most consistent player all year.”
The Razorbacks (14-17, 7-9 Southeastern Conference) appeared in control with a 65-56 lead and Ole Miss struggling to score, but the Rebels (21-9, 9-7) slowly chipped away with seven straight points, cutting the deficit to two.
After Warren missed a driving layup that could have tied it, Arkansas’ Courtney Fortson was called for a foul with 56.6 seconds left, putting Murphy Holloway on the free throw line.
Holloway, a sub-50 percent shooter from the line, missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the ball bounced right to teammate Terrance Henry, who found Warren open behind the 3-point line.
“Murphy misses free throws so bad that it’s hard to figure out a carom,” Kennedy said. “But his teammate figured it out.”
Warren’s shot gave Ole Miss the lead, and Arkansas’ Rotnei Clarke missed at the other end. Clarke appeared to come up with his own rebound, but he lost the ball. After a frantic pileup on the floor, officials called a jump ball with 28.6 seconds left. The possession arrow favored the Rebels.
After an Ole Miss free throw, Julysses Nobles was fouled with 20.2 seconds to play, but the Arkansas guard made only 1-of-2 free throws. Warren restored the two-point margin with a free throw of his own with 11.3 seconds left.
Arkansas called a timeout with 8.2 seconds to go, and Nobles drove to the basket again only to be met by a crowd of Ole Miss defenders. His shot was blocked by Holloway, and although Mike Washington grabbed the ball for Arkansas, his desperation shot from the baseline was well off the mark.
Arkansas coach John Pelphrey was satisfied with Nobles’ last effort.
“He almost got a three-point play on the one before, so by no means was that a bad play,” Pelphrey said. “He did well.”
Nobles scored 11 points, and Clarke added 13 for the Razorbacks. Marcus Britt contributed 12 points for Arkansas.
Trevor Gaskins scored 13 points for Ole Miss, the only Rebel besides Warren in double figures.
Ole Miss was without guard Eniel Polynice, suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. Still, the Rebels were able to win their fourth straight game and secure a first-round bye in the SEC tournament.
“We’re playing for a lot,” Kennedy said. “To get to 21-9 and 9-7, and to continue our winning streak … gives us some much-needed momentum.”
The Razorbacks led by as many as 14 in the first half and entered halftime with a 43-33 advantage. Warren scored eight straight points to begin the second, cutting the margin to two. Arkansas answered with seven straight points, including a 3-pointer by Clarke that made it 50-41.
The Rebels still had another push left in them, and this time the Razorbacks couldn’t hold on, losing their fifth straight game to end the regular season.
The teams combined for 28 turnovers in the first half, giving the ball away seemingly every way possible: offensive fouls, a double dribble, traveling, a 5-second call while closely guarded — even a couple palming violations.
Arkansas took a 28-16 lead on a dunk by Marshawn Powell after Fortson alertly dropped the ball off for him on a fast break.
“We competed really hard and controlled almost the whole game,” Clarke said. “Allowing them to come back like that in the end is pretty tough to take.”