By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
ATLANTA – Ole Miss had a dynamic post presence when it defeated Kentucky in Oxford on Feb. 1.
In an SEC tournament rematch, half a post presence wasn’t enough to get it done.
Junior forward Terrance Henry posted a double-double for the second-straight day, but sophomore Reggie Buckner picked up two early fouls and was a non-factor.
No. 15 Kentucky, the East No. 2 seed, scored 42 points in the paint and eliminated Ole Miss with a 75-66 win before 21,875 mostly Kentucky fans at the Georgia Dome Friday afternoon.
Chris Warren had a dramatic game-winning shot against the Wildcats with 2.9 seconds left in the February game. In March he scored 20 points but shot just 25 percent, hitting 5 of 20 field goals.
Buckner picked up his first foul less than a minute into the game and was on the bench with two for most of the first half when he played only seven minutes. He got off one shot, didn’t score and had three rebounds in 21 minutes total.
“Our effort was good enough to advance, but our execution failed us,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “To beat Kentucky you have to make plays. I was proud of our effort.”
The Wildcats (23-8) will take on Alabama in today’s semifinal round. Ole Miss (20-13) is expected to receive an NIT berth for the fourth time in five years.
When Ole Miss won in Oxford, Buckner was 6 for 9 from the floor and had 12 points and five rebounds. Henry also had 12 points and five boards in that game.
Friday Kentucky attacked Ole Miss in the low-post from the get-go.
“I was hoping Reggie wouldn’t pick up a quick two, but it happened. That kind of affected us and how we played,” Henry said.
Henry led the Rebels with 11 first-half points and finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Kentucky put four players in double figures, one of them beefy Josh Harrellson, who more than doubled his 6.4-points scoring average with 13 points in the game, nine in the first half when the Wildcats were able to pound the ball inside frequently.
“We were doing what we were taught not to do, help up when someone drives. He was getting his buckets off dump-offs and pump fakes. We were leaving our feet when he would pump fake,” Henry said.
Warren was not a factor in the first half, shooting 1-for-7 and didn’t hit his field goal, a 3-pointer, until 1 minute, 32 seconds remained before halftime.
The Kentucky lead reached 12 with 14:50 left to play, and Warren seemed to be near most big plays down the stretch, even on the defensive end when 6-foot-7 Darius Miller found himself posted up on Warren on the low block and scored easily for a 68-63 lead with 2:04 remaining. Warren responded with a 3-pointer from near the key to make it 68-66 with 1:46 left.
Many other shots didn’t find the bottom of the sack, as Warren finished 4 for 15 from 3-point range.
“Maybe if one or two of those had gone in, it would be a different story. Sometimes it goes like that,” he said.
At times you could hear the Kentucky crowd rise and fall with his 3-point attempts, like the two that rimmed in and out when the Rebels had chances to cut into a five-point deficit with under 10 minutes to play.
“I told our guys to be big with high hands, stop the other guys and make him take tough shots,” Calipari said. “The other choice was to foul him, and if he got to the free throw line he wasn’t going to miss.”