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Mississippi’s Warren eyes elusive NCAA Tournament
Question of the Day
OXFORD, MISS. (AP) - Chris Warren has a recurring dream about rolling out of bed, standing up and suddenly realizing he’s grown to be 6-foot-4.
But every day when the Mississippi point guard actually wakes up, nothing’s changed. He’s still 5-10.
“Guess I’ll just have to learn to live with it,” he said with a grin.
While Warren views his height as a hardship, it’s hard to tell from the results over the past four years. With at least a dozen games remaining in his career, he has a chance to become only the fourth player in Southeastern Conference history with 2,000 career points and 400 career assists.
“Chris has just been so consistent _ not one bad day,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “You can always count on him coming in and giving an honest day’s work. He’s gotten much better at a lot of different aspects of his game, and the numbers really speak for themselves.”
Warren’s numbers are even more impressive when considering he missed more than 20 games during his sophomore year because of an ACL tear.
But around the country and even in parts of the SEC, his accomplishments have gone mostly unnoticed. That’s because even though the Rebels won 64 games in Warren’s first three seasons (21.3 per year), they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss nearly earned an NCAA bid during his freshman and junior seasons, earning a national ranking during the non-conference schedule only to struggle during conference play and settle for a berth in the National Invitation Tournament. Both times, the Rebels advanced to the semifinals.
In his final season, Warren wants more.
“It’s huge to me because Coach always talks about having that experience and taking it with you for the rest of your life,” Warren said. “But you can’t have it if you don’t make it.”
The odds are already against the Rebels. Ole Miss (13-7, 1-4 SEC) lost its first four conference games before recovering to beat LSU 78-51 last Saturday.
But the upcoming two-game homestand against conference powers Tennessee and Kentucky represents an opportunity. Winning both games wouldn’t guarantee anything, but would certainly vault the Rebels back into the NCAA Tournament discussion.
Ole Miss hosts Tennessee (13-7, 3-2) on Saturday at Tad Smith Coliseum. The Volunteers have won three straight conference games.
“It could be a huge boost,” Warren said. “Those are marquee teams in the SEC and the country. Everybody knows Tennessee has a good program. Same thing with Kentucky. We need these wins and we’ve got to go get them.”
If it’s going to happen, Warren will likely need two of his best games. Throughout his career, he’s been mostly known as a long-range bomber, and his 293 career 3-pointers rank sixth in conference history.
He’s got an uncanny ability to get his shot off in traffic and over taller opponents. Terrance Henry, a 6-foot-9 forward who has played with Warren for three years, says his success almost defies physics.
“He’s a strong-willed guy _ tough,” Henry said. “I’ve never seen anyone like him.”
But through the years, Warren’s evolved from just being a shooter. He’s added a broader repertoire of drives to the basket and mid-range jumpers. He’s also become more of a complete point guard, averaging more than four assists per game this season.
“It’s just the little stuff _ knowing when to slow the pace down and when to speed it up,” Warren said. “It’s a play here and a play there. That’s the difference between the NCAA Tournament or being disappointed.”
By Michael P. Orsi
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