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Balanced attack helps Mississippi bounce back from first loss

Jan 13, 2008 - 4:37 AM OXFORD, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Coming off its first loss of the season, Mississippi used a balanced attack to hold off a furious rally from Louisiana State.

Eniel Polynice and Chris Warren each scored 15 points as No. 15 Mississippi had five players in double figures en route to edging LSU, 74-71, in an Southeastern Conference matchup on Saturday.

Mississippi (14-1, 1-1 SEC West), which fell from the ranks of the unbeaten on Wednesday, dropping a close 85-83 decision at No. 9 Tennessee, seemed to be in control midway through the second half.

After leading by 14 points at the half, Mississippi took its biggest lead at 60-38 with 10:42 to go on a layup by Dwayne Curtis, before the Tigers fought back.

"I give LSU a lot of credit," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy. "We were in control of the game and they could have died and gone away, but they didn't. They stepped up and made some shots and we turned the ball over too much."

Marcus Thornton capped an 18-2 run with a pair of 3-pointers, cutting LSU's deficit to 62-56 with 6:02 remaining.

The Rebels built their lead back up to 12 with under one minute to play before LSU scored 10 straight points - capped by another 3-pointer from Thornton off a steal - to cut the Mississippi lead to 73-71 with 20 seconds remaining.

"We got a little better in making open shots," LSU coach John Brady said. "In the first half, we couldn't make open shots. We guarded Ole Miss pretty well in the second half. We just didn't do enough things to win."

Warren made one of two free throws, giving the Tigers a chance, but Garrett Temple's shot from the arc missed with under two seconds to play - securing the win for Mississippi.

Freshman Malcolm White had a season-high 12 points and Kenny Williams added 10 and 12 rebounds for the Rebels, who made just 1-of-9 shots from the arc in the second half after making five in the first half.

"Malcolm (White) was the MVP of this game," Kennedy said. "He stepped up and made some huge plays for us. He was active defensively and offensively. He made some big shots."

It was the fifth straight loss for LSU (7-9, 0-2), which dropped to 1-7 in games away from home.

Temple had scored the Tigers' first eight points as LSU jumped out to an 8-2 lead before Mississippi responded.

The Rebels scored 13 unanswered during a 21-4 run - keyed by seven points from Warren - that gave Mississippi a 23-12 lead with 10:30 left in the first half.

David Huertas made a running 3-pointer from the midcourt line just before the halftime buzzer to give Mississippi a 43-29 halftime lead, and the Rebels maintained their double-digit advantage through the early stages of the second half before the Tigers comeback.

"Our guys began to play passively," Kennedy said. "Against Tennessee, we were in a similar situation and we began attacking similarly to how LSU attacked us tonight. I was hopeful at this point in the season we were past that, but obviously we are not."

Thornton led LSU with 25 points, while freshman Anthony Randolph had 18 and 11 rebounds.

The loss also drops the Tigers to 0-2 in the conference for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

"We will try to build on how we played in the second half tonight," Brady said. "I'll look at the lineup that we had on the floor at the end of the game and see if we can build something with that group. They executed better for us in the second half."