OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Ole Miss guard Clarence Sanders admitted he would not be opposed to playing against Tennessee more often.
Sanders scored 20 points, 18 in the second half, as Ole Miss rallied to defeat Tennessee 83-69 Wednesday.
The junior guard was the key figure in a 20-2 run midway through the second half that helped the Rebels erase a 51-44 deficit. The performance was an impressive follow-up to last season’s meeting, when Sanders scored a career-high 29 points against the Vols.
“I wouldn’t mind,” said Sanders, when asked if he would like to play against Tennessee each game. “It’s just worked out that I’ve been able to get good looks against them and make some shots.”
While Sanders was able to ignite a decisive rally for the Rebels (13-7, 2-4), the Vols went without a field goal for more than five minutes and were unable to pull closer than nine points in the final six minutes.
“We have a formula for losing games on the road – against Vanderbilt, Auburn and now Ole Miss,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “Sanders is a streaky shooter and he was able to make some big shots.”
Tennessee (14-6, 2-3) played without Chris Lofton, the SEC’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, who injured his ankle in the second half of last Saturday’s win over South Carolina. His status for Saturday’s game at Kentucky is undetermined.
“Chris is the leading scorer in the SEC and the leading three-point shooter,” Pearl said. “You take away an All-American from a team, any team and there are some pretty good holes in that cheese.”
The Vols shot well enough in the first half that Lofton was hardly missed. Tennessee led 38-28 at halftime, closing the half with a 25-7 run that included 6-of-7 from three-point range.
“They got us out of synch with their defense and shot lights out from three-point range,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “On our part, we just weren’t making shots. In the second half, we were able to get on a roll.”
The 20-2 run gave Ole Miss an insurmountable 64-58 lead with 7:08 left. Sanders hit five consecutive shots in the surge, accounting for 13 points and an assist, capping it with a three-point shot.
Sanders was 2-of-11 from the field before going on the hot streak, which he called, “just finally calming down and not rushing my shot. I had the same looks in the first half, but I just stopped rushing it.”
“You just shake your head when he shoots,” Kennedy said. “He does some unusual things with his shot, but when he gets going, he can do what you saw tonight.”
Dwayne Curtis had 18 points and nine rebounds, while Bam Doyne had 13 and Todd Abernethy 10 for the Rebels. Tennessee was led by JaJuan Smith with 22 points, while Ramar Smith had 16 and Josh Tabb added 11.
Ole Miss hot 30-of-63, 48 percent, from the field and outrebounded the Vols, 40-34. Tennessee was 25-of-59 from the field, including 15-of-31 from Smith and Smith.
The Vols finished 10-of-27 from three-point range, but were only 3-of-13 in the second half. Tennessee has lost four of its last five.
The game marked the second straight for the Rebels in which they reeled off a second-half run where they outscored the opposition by 18 points. On the road against top-ranked Florida Saturday, Ole Miss ran off a 29-11 run that pulled the team within seven points, but the Rebel comeback would get no closer.
Ole Miss returns to action Saturday at Vanderbilt, which won its third straight Wednesday with a 64-53 triumph at LSU. Game time is set for noon CT and will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports.