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Ole Miss beats Southern Miss, off to record-setting start

Dec 29, 2007 - 6:10 AM OXFORD, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Dwayne Curtis and Mississippi's surprising run has reached historic heights.

Curtis scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half as the No. 24 Rebels remained undefeated with a 78-58 victory over Southern Miss on Friday.

One of nine undefeated teams remaining in Division I, Mississippi set the school record for the best start to a season at 12-0. The 1936-37 and 2000-01 editions both began with 11 straight wins.

"It's the best start in the history of our program," Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said. "We don't take that lightly. I told them in this business, there is never a game where you can sit back and say, 'Look what we've done.'

"In mid-April, we'll enjoy what we have accomplished this year. We just have to keep grinding. You're only as good as your last game. We still have to grow as a group. Tonight was a step in that direction."

The Rebels needed a second-half run to shake the in-state rival Golden Eagles (8-5), opening up a two-point game with a 25-7 burst over the final nine-plus minutes of the contest.

Ole Miss had been ahead by as many as nine points in the early moments of the second half before Southern Miss closed within 53-51 with 9:23 left on the strength of a 7-0 run. Jeremy Wise had a three-point play before R.L. Horton capped the run with a pair of free throws.

Horton finished with 23 points, converting 10-of-11 from the stripe.

David Huertas answered with a 3-pointer moments later, and the Rebels went ahead, 66-58, after Curtis scored five straight points for his team.

"I thought our team wore down at the end," Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy said. "We played like we belonged for the first 30 minutes of the game. We had to keep some guys on the floor that were not effective for us due to foul trouble. Plus, we got really fatigued in the second half."

Curtis added a layup with 2:47 left for a 74-58 advantage and the senior center dunked in the closing moments.

Freshman Chris Warren scored 17 points and Eniel Polynice added 14 for Ole Miss, which will host Alabama A&M on Wednesday before opening Southeastern Conference play against No. 12 Tennessee on January 9.

A team with three starters who are in their first two seasons of college, the Rebels were expected to finish at the bottom of the West Division in the preseason.

"Ole Miss is really young and should be a team to reckon with for years to come," Eustachy said. "Andy Kennedy has done a fantastic job building a solid program at Ole Miss."

A sophomore guard, Polynice had a big overall game, posting career highs in both rebounds (13) and assists (nine).

"It was the type of game we recruited Eniel Polynice to give us, with numbers in every part of the stat column," Kennedy said. "The 13 rebounds were fantastic."

Behind the 6-5 Polynice, the Rebels finished with a 51-37 advantage on the boards and 34-22 edge in points in the paint.

"We felt whoever won the battle of the boards would win the game and we did that tonight," Kennedy said.

Southern Miss, which had a five-game winning streak snapped with a loss to McNeese State on Sunday, took the early advantage in the contest, pulling ahead, 20-14, behind an 11-2 run.

Wise had the final eight points on the spurt, and hit a jumper for a 24-16 advantage with 8:24 remaining.

The sophomore guard had 12 of his 17 points in the opening half.

Ole Miss, however, was able to answer with a more impressive burst, going back ahead after scoring the next 13 points. Warren had two 3-pointers on the spurt, which was capped by a jumper by Polynice to make it 29-24 with 4:55 before the break.

Warren added five more points down the stretch, including a 3-pointer right before the buzzer for a 40-34 lead at the half.