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Ole Miss' defense stifles Arkansas to snap 2-game losing streak

Jan. 24—OXFORD — Senior guard Matthew Murrell and junior guard Jaylen Murray combined to score 39 points against Arkansas on Wednesday night as Ole Miss dominated the Razorbacks 77-51 at SJB Pavilion, snapping the Rebels' two-game losing streak.

"It was definitely a must-win, for sure," Murray said.

Murrell scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half while 14 of Murray's 21 came in the second. Four Ole Miss players finished in double-figure scoring. The Rebels (16-3, 3-3 SEC) held the Razorbacks (10-9, 1-5) to 33.3% from the field and 17 total made field goals. Ole Miss never trailed in the game and improved to 12-0 at home.

"It's pretty cool when you're up a significant amount, and late in the game your student section's chanting 'defense' and cheering and stuff," Ole Miss head coach Chris Beard said. "Year 1, you're building this thing, but there's no denying tonight was a home court advantage. We had a great atmosphere."

The Rebels made their first four shots Wednesday night and took a 15-point lead midway through the first half. Fifteen of the Rebels' first 24 points came off nine Arkansas turnovers. The Rebels' offense went cold late in the first, though, allowing the Razorbacks to cut the lead down to six with just over four minutes to play. The Rebels finished the final 2:43 of the half on a 9-3 run and led by 12 at halftime. Ole Miss held Arkansas to just 8 of 31 from the field in the first.

An 11-2 run early in the second half propelled the Rebels ahead by 20. An emphatic dunk by senior forward Jaemyn Brakefield with just under 11 minutes to play gave Ole Miss a 21-point lead. The Rebels led by as many as 29 and outrebounded Arkansas 43-28. Brakefield finished with 11 points while senior guard Allen Flanigan scored 10.

"Tonight's game started with a focus. It was a one-word gameplan: defend. And not so much about the opponent, but about us. Let's get back to guarding the ball with some more pride. When we do get beat, let's have some rim protection," Beard said. "Defense is all about rotating. It's all about helping. And I thought tonight, we did that ... I thought for the first 30 minutes of the game, that our guys were trying to defend at a high, high effort level."

Ole Miss plays at Texas A&M Saturday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network.

michael.katz@djournal.com