'Cats nipped by Ole Miss in final seconds
Chris Warren's college career isn't over, so he didn't want to rank his best moments just yet.
But with a wide grin, the Mississippi point guard admitted the high-arcing, 3-pointer that beat No. 10 Kentucky on Tuesday night will rank close to the top no matter what happens the rest of the season.
Warren's 25-footer over two defenders rattled home with 2.9 seconds remaining and Mississippi beat the Wildcats 71-69 at Tad Smith Coliseum. After the game, teammates mobbed the 5-foot-10 senior as the Rebels celebrated their first win over a top 10 team since 2002.
''It's just so much fun,'' Warren said. ''Winning is fun and we haven't been doing that much lately. We called the play, ran it the right way and it felt good when it left my hand. We needed this really, really bad.''
Warren, who scored 22 points, finished 9 of 15 from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
Terrance Jones scored 22 points and Doron Lamb added 20 for the Wildcats, who rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to take the late lead. Lamb missed a running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
''We got the look we wanted,'' Kentucky coach John Calipari said. ''We missed.''
Ole Miss led 64-55 with 6:31 remaining, but Kentucky clawed its way back, taking a 69-68 lead on two free throws by Jones with 1:21 left.
The teams traded empty possessions before Ole Miss called a timeout with just over 10 seconds left. The play was for Warren, who came into the game as the second-leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, and he stutter-stepped a few times before taking the shot.
Already the sixth-leading scorer in Ole Miss history, the diminutive guard with the funky-looking beard added a signature moment to his career.
''That's the same Chris Warren I've been seeing since freshman year,'' Ole Miss guard Trevor Gaskins said. ''We all wanted him taking the shot and didn't have any doubt he'd make it.''
Ole Miss (14-8, 2-5 SEC) got 16 points from Zach Graham and 12 each from Reggie Buckner and Terrance Henry. Buckner, a 6-8 sophomore, added five rebounds, five blocks and three steals, and provided a poster-worthy moment when he blocked Brandon Knight's dunk attempt in the second half.
Buckner timed his jump perfectly, meeting Knight at the apex of his leap toward the basket. The rejection sent the announced crowd of 8,243 into a frenzy, and seized momentum for the game's final minutes.
''I haven't blocked a shot like that in a long time,'' Buckner said. ''It all happened so fast that I didn't even see it. I just heard the crowd roar.''
Though Warren's big shot was the lasting impression from the game, Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said contributions from players like Buckner were just as important.
''We've just got to continue to support (Warren) - we've got to get him some help,'' Kennedy said. ''I told our team that this is a good win. It keeps us alive. And it still shows we've got room for improvement.''
Kentucky (16-5, 4-3) had a huge advantage in the all-time series coming into Tuesday, winning 96 of 108 games, including 25 of 34 in Oxford.
And there seemed little reason the trend would change. As usual, Kentucky is among the nation's elite while Ole Miss languishes at the bottom of the SEC.
But the Rebels were feisty from the beginning, coming back from an early seven-point deficit to take a 34-30 lead late in the first half. Kentucky led 35-34 at halftime.
''Give Ole Miss credit, they battled and wanted it worse than we did,'' Calipari said.
Kentucky shot 25 of 51 from the field (49 percent) and outrebounded Ole Miss 36-27, but was hurt by 18 turnovers. Knight added 15 points for the Wildcats, including 10 in the second half, but had six turnovers.
Ole Miss shot 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range.
''It's time to start stringing wins together,'' Kennedy said. ''It was a high-level basketball game. We've shown we've been able to compete in these types of games. It was nice to actually win one.''