No. 25 Mississippi 83, McNeese St. 67

Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy didn’t really want to talk about

the first half of his 25th-ranked Rebels’ 83-67 victory over

McNeese State on Saturday.

The first few minutes of the second half weren’t so hot


“Can we just talk about the last 15 minutes, please?” Kennedy


Ole Miss used a late rally to come from behind in their second

straight game, overcoming another lethargic start to beat another

upset-minded underdog in its first contest since joining the Top


The first half that wasn’t so hot included 18 misses from the

field, 3 of 11 shooting at the free-throw line and a porous defense

that was a step slow.

McNeese State (3-5) led by as many as 15 points before the

Rebels (8-1) snapped out of their revelry and went on the attack

for their fourth straight victory. It wasn’t the kind of win that

leaves you looking forward to practice the next day, though.

“It’s unacceptable,” Kennedy said.

Chris Warren scored 20 points and Eniel Polynice, a former

starter, came off the bench to spark the rally, scoring all 12 of

his points in the final 10:10 and spurring the Ole Miss defense

with four steals during the pivotal moments. The comeback was fast

and furious, the complete opposite of the Rebels’ early effort.

Ole Miss struggled against McNeese State’s 2-3 zone in the first

half. Kennedy said that bled over into the team’s defense, with

players jogging back and leaving the Cowboys open for long jumpers

and drives to the basket.

McNeese State, which got 20 points from Patrick Richard, built

its largest lead with a 29-10 run that spanned halftime and

featured seven 3-pointers, including four by Diego Kapelan, who

finished with 18 points. The Cowboys held the Rebels to one field

goal over 5:18 at one point during the run and had them against the

ropes early in the second as they pushed the lead to 47-32 on

Richard’s 3-pointer with 16:16 left.

“Lack of energy, lack of attention to detail,” Polynice said.

“It felt like we weren’t taking them seriously at all. And you

can’t take no teams like that. You’ve got to come out with the

right mindset and take every team as if they’re a good team, and we

didn’t do that in the first half. They gave us what we


Mississippi answered with an 18-2 run that included eight points

from Polynice and gave the Rebels their first lead of the second

half, 61-59 with 6:30 left.

The run featured several hustle plays by Polynice. The Rebels

tied the game at 59-59 after he stole the ball near the Cowboys’

basket, walked a tight rope along the left sideline, then found

Zach Graham ahead of the defense for a layup.

He followed that with a layup on a 2-on-1 break to give the

Rebels the lead, then used a midcourt steal and layup to extend the

lead. Terrico White and Warren followed with 3s to put the game


The Cowboys committed eight of their 18 turnovers in the final

10:30 and the Rebels finished with 23 points off turnovers.

“We had those 18 turnovers and that’s the problem,” McNeese

State coach Dave Simmons said. “That’s what we need to look at and

see what exactly went wrong, especially against a team that didn’t

press us that much.”

It was the second straight come-from-behind win for the Rebels.

They trailed by six last weekend against Southern Miss before

Warren hit two late 3s to give Ole Miss an 81-79 victory.

This time the Rebels outscored their opponent 40-13 to finish

the game.

“We came out flat against Southern Miss and that carried

over,” Warren said. “We need to stop doing that and come out

strong. We’ve got to be more focused on the game before the