OXFORD, Miss. | Mississippi's fabulous freshmen are starting to catch on.
Five days after throwing away a late lead, Terrico White scored 21 points, fellow freshman Murphy Holloway had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Mississippi beat Tennessee 81-65 on Wednesday night by refusing to lose despite a Volunteers' rally in the second half.
"We went to the bench and coach said, 'You're not giving this one up,'" Holloway said of coach Andy Kennedy's instructions during a second-half timeout. "He said, 'You gave up a game at LSU. You're not giving up this game, especially at home.'"
The Rebels (14-11, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) started the second half on a 16-3 run and never let the Volunteers (16-9, 7-4) back in it. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Ole Miss and a two-game winning streak for Tennessee. The Volunteers had won four of their last five to move into a first-place tie in the SEC East and could have taken over the spot alone after South Carolina and Kentucky lost. But now with Florida's win, there are four teams in the East tied at 7-4.
Pearl spent about a half-hour in the locker room after the loss and wasn't his usual bouncy self in his postgame interview as he sounded a familiar lament. The Volunteers missed 13 free throws and were badly outrebounded 44-30 as well.
"It's a mental and physical toughness we've lacked all season," Pearl said.
That lack of punch was most apparent during a stretch of 5:23 spanning halftime when the Rebels held the Volunteers without a field goal. The Rebels shut down Tennessee for the final 3:50 of the first half and the first 1:53 of the second, outscoring the Volunteers 14-3 during that time.
The Volunteers also limited themselves during that stretch with missed free throws. Tennessee failed to hit shots despite a distinct advantage at the free-throw line in the first half, missing 5 of 11 and three of their last six to give Ole Miss a 34-32 halftime advantage.
Tennessee's troubles continued after the break. The Volunteers took just two shots in the first 5½ minutes and missed their first five free throws. They were 11 of 24 overall and came away from the line with no points four times.
The quick run out of the half gave Ole Miss a 50-35 lead with 14:43 left. The run was fueled by four 3-pointers, including two from Zach Graham. The Volunteers never got closer than 10 and trailed by as many as 18. The final margin was Tennessee's second most in defeat this season, matching an 88-72 loss to Temple.
"I don't think we showed poise and we let ourselves get rattled," Pearl said. "At this point in the season, there's no excuse for that."
Wayne Chism had 19 points and Tyler Smith added 16 to lead Tennessee, but no other player stepped up to help out. Meanwhile, White and Holloway got a second-half assist from David Huertas. He had a tough first half punctuated by several heated discussions with Kennedy.
"(The arguments) are kind of normal because every game coach tells David to pass the ball and David starts talking in Spanish," White said. "I have no idea what he's saying."
Huertas rallied to score 14 of his 16 points in the final 20 minutes, leading Ole Miss to several hustle plays and a number of dunks and easy baskets in transition as Tennessee wavered.
The Volunteers entered the game averaging a conference-best 50 percent from the floor in SEC road games. But they finished at 42.1 percent (24 of 57), struggling from both the outside — where they missed 18 of 24 3-point shots — and inside where they found an aggressive defense led by Holloway and DeAndre Cranston.
The Rebels outscored the Volunteers 42-36 in the paint and had 21 second-chance points off 14 offensive rebounds.
They also won the categories that aren't reflected on the statistics sheet.
"We have to make those (hustle) plays to beat a team the caliber of Tennessee," Kennedy said. "We call them 50-50 balls. We've got to get the 50-50 balls. We've got to get on the floor and come up with loose balls. We had a good extra effort."