After marching though the non-conference schedule with a perfect record, Mississippi was left with a painful feeling following its SEC opener.
The 16th-ranked Rebels look to get back on track and bounce back from their first loss of the season when they host stumbling LSU on Saturday.
Mississippi (13-1, 0-1) entered Wednesday’s matchup against No. 8 Tennessee riding the best start in school history, and as one of Division I’s last six undefeated teams. The Rebels were unable to extend their winning streak, though, as they fell 85-83 in Knoxville, where the Volunteers scored the winning basket with 4.2 seconds left to play.
Ole Miss got the ball back, but was unable to put up a final shot.
“I’m not happy if we don’t win,” freshman guard Chris Warren said. “It’s not how we wanted it to come out. We came ready to play.”
The Rebels rallied from a 12-point deficit against a top 10 team in a hostile environment, but that didn’t mean much to second-year Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy.
“We’re way beyond moral victories,” Kennedy said. “Our guys are crushed. I’ve got grown men crying in there.”
The Rebels must now try to avoid opening conference play 0-2 for the second straight season. Despite its poor start a year ago, Ole Miss finished 8-8 - good enough to win the SEC West.
Warren led the Rebels with 24 points on Wednesday. He is averaging a team-high 15.9 points. Dwayne Curtis, who is averaging 15.1 points, finished with 15 and a season-high 13 rebounds against the Vols.
The Rebels hope to get back on track at Tad Smith Coliseum, where they have won 24 of 25 games since the start of last season. Ole Miss has won its eight home games this season by an average margin of 21.7 points.
The Tigers, meanwhile, have dropped 12 straight road games, including their first three of 2007-08.
Ole Miss split the regular-season series against LSU last season, with the home team winning both meetings. The Rebels, though, went on to beat the Tigers 80-60 in the SEC tournament.
LSU (7-8, 0-1) lost its conference opener 61-39 to Mississippi State on Wednesday, scoring its fewest points since a 50-33 loss to Ole Miss on Feb. 7, 2001.
The Tigers, who have lost four straight games by an average of 15.3 points, shot a season-low 21.2 percent from the field on Wednesday - including a 2-of-17 effort from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We have to put this game behind us because a lot of basketball is mental,” junior guard Garrett Temple said. “We have to find a way to get over the slump.”
Junior Marcus Thornton, who is averaging a team-high 17.1 points, scored 12 points Wednesday while missing 12 of his 14 field-goal attempts.
LSU has not opened conference play with consecutive losses since dropping its first four SEC games in 2000-01.