By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – There’s been a lot of talk about post play in the northern half of our state, much of it about Mississippi State transfer Arnett Moultrie, who ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring, first in rebounding.
There’s been no small amount of talk about Murphy Holloway either, some of it of the “what might have been” for Ole Miss variety had Holloway not missed three games and been limited in a fourth with a severe ankle sprain.
There had been less talk about Reggie Buckner, though he’s quietly put together a solid season.
Wednesday night, he talked the longest and the loudest, besting Moultrie and Holloway, besting Renardo Sidney, and carrying Ole Miss to a 75-68 win over the Bulldogs, their first in the last six meetings.
Buckner was 8-for-10 from the floor and finished with a career-high 19 points and 15 rebounds, missing a career-high by one board.
“Buckner was probably the difference in the game tonight. You plan on some of those other guys being difficult matchups. He’s a guy they got more from than I’m sure they anticipated,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said.
Agreed. Even though Buckner quietly began the week as the No. 4 rebounder in the league behind his teammate, Holloway.
The 19 points more than tripled his average of 5.9 per game. What spoke the loudest for Buckner, though, was the way he scored, not only with lob passes or put-backs but putting the ball on the floor and making a play.
As Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy asked for someone to step up, Buckner spoke up.
A year ago, he may not have been around to impact a game in this fashion. Prone to foul trouble, he might have been on the bench with Kennedy when the key plays were made.
“Reg was smart, and he was still aggressive at the basket,” Kennedy said. “Now in the middle of his junior year, his basketball IQ and timing have improved. He understands how important he is to this team.”
Instead of riding the bench, Buckner was on the floor making the plays, keeping Moultrie and Sidney from easy put-backs. State’s frontcourt duo combined for 21 rebounds, 12 by Moultrie, but just three on the offensive end.
Jarvis Summers, the Rebels’ freshman point guard, more than held his own against the savvy Dee Bost, who did his talking on Twitter on Tuesday.
The difference, though, was Buckner, and the question as the Rebels try to work up the SEC ladder is whether he’ll remain such a big part of the conversation.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.