Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman) MAGS OUT, NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT, Associated Press
OXFORD, Miss. — Murphy Holloway is way too short for a power forward in the Southeastern Conference, doesn't shoot the ball particularly well from outside and has no signature offensive moves in the paint.
Yet no one is more important to Mississippi's basketball team.
Holloway scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in his first game back from a sprained ankle and Mississippi beat Arkansas 71-63 on Wednesday night.
Ole Miss (11-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) won for just the second time in six games, coming up with a much-needed victory after a blowout loss to LSU in its league opener.
"Sometimes you lose four of five games and you think 'What's wrong?'" Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said. "(Holloway) wasn't playing. That's what was wrong. Good players make good coaches and when he's back we dominate the glass. That's the reason we win the game. Nothing else has changed."
Nick Williams added 18 points off the bench as the Rebels won the rebounding advantage 48-26 and shot 50 percent from the field. The Rebels led by as many as 13 points in the second half.
The loss snapped the Razorbacks' seven-game winning streak. Arkansas (12-4, 1-1) was led by Marvell Waithe's 15 points while B.J. Young added 14 points and Julysses Nobles scored 12.
The Razorbacks shot just 39.3 percent (24 of 61) from the field.
Holloway — who is listed at a generous 6-foot-7 — had missed the past three games with a sprained ankle and the Rebels struggled without him, losing two of those three. Though he's not a particularly efficient offensive player, he excels at offensive rebounding, second-chance points and bone-jarring defense.
His boundless energy provided a needed boost against the Razorbacks, who are known for their up-tempo style.
Holloway said he didn't realize how important he was to the Rebels until his teammates responded so well to his presence.
"Not really — not until tonight," Holloway said. "I bring some energy, but I don't really look at it like that. That's just who I am and how I play. I think we needed it and it helped pick the young guys up."
Holloway's blue-collar style was mimicked by the rest of the Rebels, who were terrific on the glass, pulling down 18 offensive rebounds. Several of those rebounds led to easy baskets, like Reginald Buckner's tip-in dunk that pushed the Ole Miss lead to 53-40 midway through the second half.
The constant hustle plays helped Ole Miss offset a bad game in other aspects — the Rebels had 23 turnovers and shot 0 for 7 from 3-point range.
Arkansas couldn't build off the momentum of beating No. 15 Mississippi State 98-88 in its SEC home opener last weekend.
"We had our opportunities and we just didn't play as well as we've been playing," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "(Holloway) was the catalyst out there. He just gives them a leader out there — he was hurt a little, but he just wills his team to win and that's what good players do."
Arkansas fought back in the second half, cutting the lead to 59-54 on Young's fastbreak dunk with 4:16 remaining, but every time the Rebels needed a basket they got one.
The Rebels had been mired in a downward spiral for more than three weeks coming into Wednesday's game, losing four of five after a 10-1 start to the season. The main culprit was a stagnant offense that's averaged less than 59 points during the skid.
The bad vibes became worse last week when Kennedy dismissed starting guard Dundrecous Nelson, who was the team's leading scorer at 11.6 points per game. The sophomore was one of the few threats from 3-point range and maybe the only player on the roster with a true scorer's mentality.
But Ole Miss managed to beat Arkansas with an ensemble cast led by Holloway, Williams and Jarvis Summers, who scored 11 points and had four assists. Buckner added eight points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: (at)davidbrandtAP
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