NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Arkansas Razorbacks had to wait the longest to play at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, and a little rust from a nearly weeklong layoff showed.
Just consider them relieved to pull out a win and advance.
Manuale Watkins drove for a layup with 1:28 left to put Arkansas ahead, and the Razorbacks held off Mississippi 73-72 on Friday night in the quarterfinals.
"We're just glad to get the win," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "I mean, I don't think Ole Miss lost. I think they ran out of time. We're fortunate. But defensively, I thought we kicked it in gear going down the stretch."
Third-seeded Arkansas (24-8) has won seven of eight and will play Vanderbilt, a 72-62 overtime winner over No. 17 Florida, in Saturday's semifinals.
Watkins' layup made it 71-70, and Daryl Macon hit two free throws with 23.8 seconds left to pad Arkansas' lead. The Razorbacks needed every point as the Rebels took and missed a flurry of shots in the final 10 seconds before Justas Furmanavicius' layup just before the buzzer.
Officials reviewed the play before ruling the game over.
No. 6 seed Mississippi (20-13) snapped a two-game winning streak.
Macon finished with 17 points, including 9 of 10 at the free throw line. Jaylen Barford and Dusty Hannahs each added 13.
"Those are the games you live for," Hannahs said. "Obviously our goal would be not to be changing leads with a team and just beat them the whole time. But when it's going back and forth like that, that's when it's really fun to be out there playing basketball."
Terence Davis led Ole Miss with 26 points.
This was the first time these teams have played in the SEC Tournament, and they turned in a doozy after Arkansas routed Ole Miss 98-80 on Feb. 18.
Ole Miss, fresh off beating hapless Missouri in the Rebels' tournament opener, jumped out to a 17-8 lead on a 3-pointer by Davis. After that, neither team led by more than six in a game featuring 13 ties, including 40-40 at halftime, along with 12 lead changes.
Breein Tyree gave Ole Miss its last lead at 70-69 with a 3-pointer with 1:47 to go. The Rebels didn't score again until a layup that was too little and too late.
With Moses Kingsley helping harass Sebastian Saiz, the Ole Miss senior who was the SEC's only player to average a double-double this season, into just nine points and 17 rebounds. Kennedy said he knew Saiz was disappointed after playing so hard.
"He just really had a difficult time finishing over their size in both games," Kennedy said.
Deandre Burnett added 16 points, and Tyree had 13 for Ole Miss.
Ole Miss: The Rebels, who lead both the SEC and the nation with the most made free throws, just couldn't get to the line enough and went 8 of 14. Saiz was just 1 of 2 at the line. They also didn't help themselves from 3-point range, missing their first five in the second half trying to match the speedy Razorbacks up and down the court. They finished 1 of 10 beyond the arc in the second half and 8 of 28 for the game despite outrebounding Arkansas 49-39.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks already had their sights set on their second NCAA Tournament berth in three seasons for the first time in nine seasons. They improved to 23-24 in this tournament and now are a win away from playing in the title game for the second time in three years.
Ole Miss: Hoping for an NIT berth after being ignored a year ago.
Arkansas: Vanderbilt in the semifinals on Saturday.
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