By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – In the study of cause and effect, there’s no single statistic, no number that explains three straight basketball wins for Ole Miss.
Collectively, nothing is phenomenal about the Rebels in wins over Kentucky, Arkansas and LSU, but nothing has been terribly sub-par either.
That condition lends itself to an average outcome when all parts are combined. What will put the Rebels over the hump if indeed they are to rip off an impressive win streak is clutch individual play.
Teams are going to shoot in the mid-40s against Ole Miss. There will be occasions, like Arkansas, where a team challenges inside. If Reggie Buckner is on top of his game – as he was in Fayetteville when he tied a school record with eight blocked shots – the opposing field goal percentage will be lower.
Typically, opponents are going to shoot a high percentage. This deep into the season that’s the personality that has evolved for the Rebels.
LSU shot 45.1 percent, but within the number there were possessions in which the Rebels were pretty good. There was a 61/2-minute span in the first half that LSU didn’t score, and Ole Miss held the Tigers scoreless over the last 3:03, a time frame that included a key 3-point miss from LSU’s Matt Derenbecker, who was 5 of 6 from 3-point range at the time.
Winning the key individual possessions can be the difference in winning the game.
On offense, the Rebels need continued production from Zach Graham.
It’s Warren’s team
It’s no secret that this is Chris Warren’s team, but Graham is the unquestioned No. 2 option, the leader of the supporting cast. Graham has averaged almost 17 points in the three wins, and his 3-point percentage – while not at his 38.4 percent mark over his first three seasons – is up from his earlier struggles.
He’s been solid in SEC play except for the Tennessee game, in which he managed only five points and two field goal attempts.
When Warren is the only player in double figures, the result is predictable.
Terrance Henry and Bucker seem to be in lockstep. They both scored in double figures against Kentucky and Arkansas, and both had little impact on offense Wednesday night, Henry with five points, Buckner with six.
Whatever scoring Ole Miss can get in the post is bonus coverage.
The 0-4 SEC start may yet prove to be a hole too deep for rescue.
RPI numbers and the SEC Western Division image being what they are, the Rebels need to rise above average to catch the eyes of the NCAA selection committee.
With its own RPI rating of 58, Ole Miss must pour it on down the stretch. Difficult road challenges remain beginning Saturday at Alabama.
Regardless of how the numbers read, the Rebels have a chance to play meaningful games later this month if the right players win the possessions at the most important times.
After the way the SEC season started, that’s all they can ask.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.