Since then everything has gone right for the Rebels, who have climbed to first place in the SEC West and their highest ranking since the end of the 1998 regular season.
``Nothing surprises me the way we have been playing,'' Lockhart said. ``I knew we would find a way to win.'' The instate rivals have had drastically different seasons. Ole Miss was expected to struggle, but instead the Rebels have excelled.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have been inconsistent underachievers. Wednesday night's game epitomized their seasons, with Ole Miss finding a way to win and Mississippi State squandering opportunities. ``We've just got to finish those close games on the road,'' Patterson said.
Jason Harrison banked home a driving layup to give Ole Miss a 49-47 lead with 53 seconds left. Harrison had seven points, including a big 3-pointer in the final 2½ minutes. He also missed a couple of free throws that could have given Ole Miss some breathing room with three minutes left. ``I felt I owed my team for missing two free throws, so I was ready to hit the big shot,'' said Harrison, an 83 percent free throw shooter.
Leading 49-48 with 5.7 seconds left, Ole Miss got a break that helped it hold the lead. The Bulldogs inbounded in the backcourt to Antonio Jackson, who slipped and turned the ball over. The jam packed Tad Smith Coliseum was hot and humid and numerous times players slipped on the slick floor.
``I caught the ball and tried to make a jab
``The floor was the same for both teams,'' Lockhart said. Marckell Patterson led the Bulldogs with 15 points and nine rebounds. Hamilton had 11 points and nine rebounds and Jackson scored 11. Lockhart was the only Rebel with double-digit points and Ole Miss shot just 38 percent from the floor. Ole Miss didn't hit its first 3-pointer until 10:09, when Josh Hayes made one that cut Mississippi State's lead to 37-34.
Mississippi State dominated the stat sheet in the first half, outrebounding and outshooting Ole Miss, but could only manage a 26-22 halftime lead.