Ole Miss ended a five-game losing streak to rival Mississippi State on Wednesday, pulling off a commanding 75-68 upset at Tad Smith Coliseum, where three of those losses had come. The Rebels (12-6, 2-2 SEC) improved to 8-0 at home, while No. 18 MSU (15-4, 2-2) lost another SEC road game.
Reggie Buckner had 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead a strong inside effort by Ole Miss. He also had three blocks and made life tough on MSU big man Arnett Moultrie, who scored only two first-half points and finished with 10.
It was a big win for Kennedy in the bigger picture, but he's worried more about the here and now.
"It's about trying to be in the moment, trying to protect your home floor, trying to get back to 2-2 in the league," said Kennedy, who's now 4-7 against MSU.
The Bulldogs, who are now 0-4 when trailing at halftime, never could mount a serious rally after trailing 38-33 at halftime. The Ole Miss lead fluctuated between nine and three points in the second half.
Buckner was too much to handle on both ends of the floor.
"By far Reggie's best overall game of the season, when we needed it the most," said Kennedy.
It was 63-60 Ole Miss after a Renardo Sidney layup with 2 minutes, 19 seconds left, but the Rebels scored the next six points as State went ice cold from the field. Terrance Henry effectively sealed it with two free throws to make it 69-60 with 48.7 seconds left.
Sidney led MSU with 17 points and nine rebounds.
"We took some bad shots," said freshman Rodney Hood, who scored 13 points. "When we cut it down to four, we came out and took a quick shot when we should've settled down and got the ball to Arnett or Sid. That's something we need to work on."
Ole Miss shot 50 percent from the field and committed only five turnovers. State shot 37.7 percent and committed seven turnovers.
Dee Bost had 15 points for MSU, but the senior point guard - who talked a little smack on Twitter leading up to the game - had a hard time finding a groove offensively.
He shot 4 of 15 from the field, all of his makes coming from behind the arc.
MSU put up 29 shots from 3-point range, making 10.
"You've got to come away with fouls or get that ball in the hole, get it inside there," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "We left a couple laying right there in that transition, I know that."
Ole Miss was 4 of 13 from deep, but it hit some early to get off to a fast start. The Rebels led 12-3 before the Bulldogs climbed back in it and pulled ahead. MSU led 23-22 when Ole Miss scored eight straight points, and it never trailed again.
Nick Williams scored 17 for the Rebels, while Jarvis Summers and Terrance Henry added 12 each.
Ole Miss out-rebounded State, 38-35.
"It shows us what we're capable of doing," Kennedy said. "The thing I'm the most proud of, a lot of it was based on the way that they chose to defend. We only turned it over five times, and that's been the Achilles' heel of this team. We stepped up and made some shots."
Ole Miss travels to Georgia on Saturday, while MSU visits Vanderbilt.