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No. 13 Rebels Rout No. 12 Razorbacks

No. 13 Mississippi gave itself a chance to defend its only regular-season Southeastern Conference title.

Ansu Sesay had 23 points and 11 rebounds as the Rebels (20-5, 11-4) beat No. 12 Arkansas 81-65 Wednesday night, earning a share of the SEC Western Division lead with one regular-season game left.

"We took it to them every possible way," Ole Miss coach Rob Evans said. "We've been playing hard to get back in this position going into Saturday."

Ole Miss has won six straight games since losing 100-87 at Arkansas on Feb. 5, when the Rebels were three games behind the Razorbacks (22-6, 11-4).

Arkansas led by 10 points late in the first half, but Ole Miss used a 13-2 run to take a 38-37 halftime lead, and the Rebels then scored eight of the first nine points in the second half.

"When we are not making shots, we can't get in the press," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "Without pressing, we are just an average team. And we were not even average tonight."

The Razorbacks shot 26 percent (8-of-31) in the second half, after hitting more than half of their shots before halftime.

And Ole Miss - which shot 39 percent (25-of-65) dominated the boards, outrebounding Arkansas 53-37. The Rebels also had 25 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points.

"When they shoot, rebound and stick it back in, that let the fans back in the game. That is when you are in serious trouble," Richardson said. "That is when they got back in control."

Ole Miss starting forward Anthony Boone, who played just nine minutes in the first half, got his only two baskets - both inside - in the opening minute of the second half.

Jason Smith's steal and breakaway layup pushed Ole Miss ahead 47-39. Arkansas never got closer than seven points the final 18 minutes, and trailed by double digits after Jon Cantrell's 3-pointer with 11:21 made it 59-47.

Ole Miss extended its school-record home winning streak to 19 games and earned only the fourth 20-win season in school history. The Rebels won their first SEC West title last year, when they were 20-9 and had their first 20-win season since the 1930s.

The Rebels play their regular-season finale Saturday at home against Auburn, while Arkansas is at Alabama. As the top two teams in the West, both are already assured first-round byes in next week's SEC tournament.

Arkansas won the first four SEC West titles after joining the conference, but has finished second to Mississippi teams the last two years - to Ole Miss last year and NCAA Final Four participant Mississippi State in 1996.

It was the 49th straight game in double-figure scoring for Sesay. Joezon Darby added 12 points and Keith Carter had 11 for the Rebels.

Derek Hood had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Arkansas, which lost for the third time in five games. Guy Whitney, coming off a career-high 12 points against Auburn, added 10 points.

Razorbacks scoring leader Pat Bradley was held o just two points, 13 below his average. He was 1-of-14 from the field, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

"We tried to take him out of the game," Carter said of Bradley. "He can get loose on the 3s and can be a big offensive threat. We put good defensive pressure on him, and even our big guys helped out."

A reverse layup by Carter to save a blown alley-oop pass from Sesay started the go-ahead 13-2 spurt at the end of the first half. The Rebels finally went ahead on Darby's 3-pointer with 1:26 left that made it 36-35.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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