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OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's fighting for an outside chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Missouri is just trying to stay out of the Southeastern Conference basement.
But a mismatch on paper proved to be a close game in real life.
Deandre Burnett scored 28 points and freshman Breein Tyree added 15 as Ole Miss slipped past Missouri 80-77 on Saturday. The outcome was in doubt until the final seconds: The Tigers missed two 3-point shots in their final possession that would have forced overtime.
It's the second straight close win for the Rebels, who beat rival Mississippi State in overtime on Tuesday. Ole Miss has won six of its past eight games and several of the victories have been close.
"I'm used to them," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "Our margin for error is just too small. Typically, if it's a blowout it's not going to be good for us. So, I want them close. We've lived in this world all year and if we're going to have success, we're going to have to live there the remainder of the regular season and going into the (SEC) tournament."
The Rebels (18-11, 9-7 SEC) had chances to pull away from Missouri, but the Tigers (7-21, 2-14) managed to hang around, shooting 20 of 35 (57.1 percent) from the floor in the second half. Missouri, who is one of the nation's worst teams from 3-point range, shot a respectable 10 of 30 (33.3 percent) from beyond the arc on Saturday.
Freshman guard Frankie Hughes led Missouri with 22 points off the bench while junior forward Jordan Barnett added 14. It was the Tigers' 34th straight loss on the road.
"I was real proud of our guys for fighting back," Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. "There were a couple times we were down double digits and we got some great, great play off our bench. All year we kind of struggled being consistent and tonight was no exception. . We had a chance to win and things just didn't go our way at the end."
Ole Miss forward Sebastian Saiz — who leads the SEC with 18 double-doubles this season — had no points or rebounds in the first half. But the 6-foot-9 senior bounced back in the second half with 10 points and seven boards. Three of those points came at a crucial time as he hit his second 3-pointer of the game with 2:42 left to put the Rebels back in front, 74-72.
"(Saiz) hits a huge 3 and we all know how he's struggled from 3 in the SEC, so I thought it was a huge 3 for him," Kennedy said.
Mississippi: It was a must-win for the Rebels, who are fighting for a postseason berth. The NCAA Tournament is a long shot, but Ole Miss has a chance to help its case during the final week of the regular season with upcoming games against Alabama and South Carolina.
Missouri: The Tigers continued to show signs of improvement after losing by only 10 points to No. 11 Kentucky on Tuesday but still lost their fourth straight game.
Mississippi: The Rebels travel to Alabama on Wednesday.
Missouri: The Tigers host Texas A&M on Tuesday.
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