A second-half collapse cost Mississippi a win in its SEC opener. Getting back on track in its next game might not be easy.
The No. 21 Rebels try to avoid a second straight loss in conference play Wednesday night against Georgia, which is seeking consecutive upsets of visiting Top 25 teams.
Mississippi (12-3, 0-1) had earned all of its wins this season over unranked opponents heading into Saturday’s home game against rival Mississippi State. The Rebels seemed to have a good chance to continue that streak after building a nine-point lead with 12:55 remaining.
Ole Miss, though, lost the lead for good in slightly more than six minutes. The Rebels allowed the Bulldogs to go on runs of 8-2 and 13-2 in an 80-75 defeat.
Chris Warren was the only Mississippi starter to score in double figures with a team-best 15 points. The Bulldogs had one of their worst shooting performances of the season at 40.3 percent.
“When (Mississippi State) didn’t play well offensively, it didn’t affect them on defense,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “They battled, and that was something we didn’t do.”
Kennedy’s team could face another battle against a Georgia team that knocked off then-No. 20 Georgia Tech 73-66 at home Jan. 5, and was a handful for then-No. 3 Kentucky in a 76-68 road defeat Saturday.
The Bulldogs (8-6, 0-1) led 35-34 at halftime and rallied to take a two-point lead with 8:24 remaining, but committed eight of their season-high 26 turnovers after that.
“We turned it over too much on the road,” coach Mark Fox said. “We had 13 both halves, and that’s too many when you’re on the road. We just weren’t complete on all parts of the game.”
That was also the case for Georgia in its most recent meeting with Mississippi, a 69-47 loss Feb. 21 in Oxford. Only six of the 13 Bulldogs who played scored and just one reached double figures as Georgia shot 25.0 percent.
Terrico White led Ole Miss with 19 points in that win, but the sophomore guard has been inconsistent in his last four contests.
White, tied with Warren for the team lead at 16.7 points per game, averaged 25.0 points on 58.1 percent shooting in the Rebels’ last two victories. However, he averaged 9.0 points on 25.9 percent in their past two losses, one of them being Mississippi’s only road defeat this season to then-No. 6 West Virginia on Dec. 23.
Warren, meanwhile, has proved steady by scoring in double figures in 13 of 14 games. The only time he failed to do so was against Centenary on Dec. 19, when he played a season-low 19 minutes.
Georgia sophomore guard Travis Leslie led his team in scoring in three of the past four games, recording a season-high 20 points against Kentucky. He has averaged 16.0 points in that span, better than his season average of 13.4.
Bulldogs leading scorer Trey Thompkins, who averages 16.3 points, averaged 18.5 in the past two games after being held to nine in a loss at Missouri on Jan. 2.
He will try to help Georgia improve to 8-1 in Athens this season with its first home win over Ole Miss since Jan. 21, 2006. The Rebels won three of the last four overall meetings, with their only loss coming in overtime in the 2008 SEC tournament.
The Bulldogs lead the series 65-38 and 37-10 at home.