By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
There are four reasons Ole Miss basketball could get hot and go on a run, Rebels coach Andy Kennedy believes.
But none of those reasons can go it alone.
Minutes after Ole Miss – which was winless in its first three SEC home games – upset No. 10 Kentucky on Tuesday night, Kennedy spoke of the need to start stringing wins together.
The first chance to add to the string is today at Bud Walton Arena against Arkansas (14-7, 4-4 SEC). Tipoff is set for 5 p.m., and the game will be televised by ESPN2.
The Razorbacks, coming off a 60-59 home loss to Georgia, are alone in second place in the SEC West.
“We need three or four of our top players, night in and night out, for every game remaining on our schedule, to play at a high level,” Kennedy said.
Offensively, the top three players have been Chris Warren – who’s 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left was the game-winner against the Wildcats – Zach Graham and Terrance Henry. The fourth is an interchangeable part.
Contributions from Nick Williams have been sporadic.
Reggie Buckner has begun to assert himself more offensively, but his minutes are sometimes limited by foul trouble. That wasn’t the case against Kentucky, however, when Buckner was on the floor for 32 minutes, his most in an SEC game.
Clearly, his presence was felt. In a game where the Rebels had some key defensive possessions, Buckner had five blocked shots and three steals.
Ole Miss forced 18 turnovers – a season-high for the Wildcats – and scored 18 points off those turnovers.
“They are a very fast, aggressive, athletic team,” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. “Warren is lightning. He is explosive, and he’s a tremendous one-on-one player.”
Unlike last Saturday’s 74-57 loss to Tennessee, when Warren was the only Ole Miss player in double figures, the Rebels had four players in doubles against Kentucky.
Graham backed up Warren’s 22 with a solid 16, and Henry and Buckner contributed 12 points each. They were a combined 11 for 17 from the floor.
“We have to make sure we’ve got the right guys shooting the right shots at the right times,” Kennedy said. “This team has shown capable, and we have to continue to believe we can get it done.”
Ole Miss (14-8, 2-5 SEC) has won three of the last five in the Arkansas series, a span that includes two straight wins at Bud Walton Arena.
Weather was a factor Wednesday night when only 7,659 fans filed into the 19,200-seat arena.
Pelphrey says he expects Ole Miss to arrive with a spring in its step following the Kentucky win – but he said he expected that anyway.
“We understand that everybody’s schedule is challenging,” he said. “The moment you start looking at someone’s record, then you yourself aren’t exercising your experience and understanding of what this is all about.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600