Ole Miss pulls away in 2nd half for 75-57 win over SMU

By The Associated Press

DALLAS — For any SEC opponent looking for a scouting report on Ole Miss from SMU coach Matt Doherty, they might not want to ask after what he saw Wednesday night.

Not after the Rebels shot 69.6 percent in the second half, turning a close game into a 75-57 rout.

“If they were in our league,” Doherty said, “I can safely say they would be the best team in (Conference USA).”

Ole Miss (12-3) will find out where it stacks up in the SEC when it plays at Florida on Saturday to open conference play. The Rebels will have good memories from their most recent half.

Chris Warren scored 19 points, including eight during a 23-4 second-half run. Zach Graham added 13 points to surpass 1,000 for his career, and Terrance Henry had 11 for the Rebels.

“With us starting SEC play in three days, it would be very easy for our guys to (look) forward,” Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said. “But I thought we did a good job of locking in and doing what we needed to do.”

Robert Nyakundi hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points for the Mustangs (9-5), who had their five-game winning streak snapped.

Ole Miss led 36-35 before Henry hit a jumper with 17:06 remaining to spark the decisive spurt, which included three acrobatic dunks, the last by Graham for a 59-39 lead with 9:22 to go. SMU didn’t get closer than 14 the rest of the way.

Doherty lamented his team’s defense in the second half. But Warren said it was the Rebels’ trap that created an aggressive mentality on the offensive end.

“It all started with our defense,” Warren said. “And that gave us good momentum.”

Warren converted a three-point play with 10:29 to go after a steal by Trevor Gaskins and then made a 3-pointer to make it 57-39 with 9:40 to go.

“Chris is certainly our engine,” Kennedy said. “We feed off of him. He gives us our swagger. When he’s playing well, we’re a good team.”

The Rebels, who have won four straight and nine of 10, trailed for most of the first half before scoring the final five points to take a 32-30 intermission lead.

Ole Miss hit 16 of 23 shots in the second half while SMU shot just 39.1 percent.

The Mustangs made 7-of-16 3-pointers after halftime but managed only two other field goals.

Papa Dia had 14 points and nine rebounds for SMU and scored eight straight points as the Mustangs took an early 11-8 lead.

Ole Miss trailed by as many as four before pulling ahead in the final minute of the first half. Graham’s layup 1½ minutes into the second gave the Rebels a 34-33 lead, and they never trailed again.

“We could have been up by six or eight points at halftime,” Doherty said. “And we have to play better defense. Mississippi is a very talented team.”

This was only the second meeting between the schools. The first came in 1968.