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WVU gets past Ole Miss

December 23, 2009

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Wellington Smith scored 17 of his career-high 19 points in the second half and No. 6 West Virginia used a huge rebounding edge and a big helping of second-half 3-pointers to beat No. 15 Mississippi 76-66 on Wednesday night.

Devin Ebanks added 14 points and 13 rebounds and Kevin Jones had 12 points for West Virginia (9-0), which is off to its best start since the 2004-05 team started 10-0 under a much softer schedule.

Facing a ranked opponent for the first time this season, West Virginia shot 60 percent (18 of 30) from the field after halftime and frustrated one of the nation's top offenses. Mississippi (10-2) was held to its lowest points total of the season and saw its six-game winning streak snapped.

Zach Graham led the Rebels with 14 points, while Eniel Polynice and Murphy Holloway had 13 apiece and Chris Warren added 10.

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Both of Mississippi's losses have come to Big East opponents. The Rebels fell to No. 8 Villanova 79-67 in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 22.

West Virginia had a successful start to a tough stretch that includes its Big East opener Saturday at Seton Hall, another league game next Tuesday against Marquette and a showdown at No. 4 Purdue on Jan. 1.

West Virginia outrebounded Mississippi 52-33 and the Mountaineers went 7 of 10 on 3-pointers in the second half.

Smith, who had five 3-pointers entering the game, made four from the right side of the key in the first 4 minutes of the second half. And when Mississippi's defense moved to the perimeter, John Flowers made an easy layup to put the Mountaineers ahead 48-36 with 14:01 left.

Mississippi, with five players averaging double figures, kept the game from becoming a rout by hitting eight straight inside baskets. Holloway made a three-point play and a layup to bring the Rebels within 49-43 with 11:47 left.

West Virginia's defense altered numerous Mississippi shots inside after that and the Rebels got no closer. Smith made another 3-pointer and the Mountaineers steadily pulled away, taking their largest lead, 65-51, on a layup by Ebanks with 7:20 remaining.

Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under current West Virginia coach Bob Huggins at Cincinnati. He became interim head coach when Huggins was forced to resign in August 2005. Kennedy was passed over for the Bearcats' permanent job and was hired at Mississippi in 2006.

West Virginia won by two points last season in Oxford, Miss., and the coaches spent time getting reacquainted in the 24 hours leading up to this meeting. It appeared early on that they knew each other's tendencies because nothing seemed to work offensively for either team.

Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia's leading scorer, went to the bench with his second foul midway through the first half. But his absence wasn't too noticeable. West Virginia went ahead to stay on a layup by Darryl Bryant with 10:50 left.

West Virginia made up for 32 percent shooting (11 of 34) in the first half by outrebounding Mississippi 31-14 to lead 29-26.

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