By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss will try to get back in the win column tonight against a Big 10 opponent and could be without assistance from its best frontcourt player – Reggie Buckner.
The shot-blocking sophomore sustained a bruised knee in the Rebels’ 78-71 overtime loss to Dayton last Saturday.
Tipoff against Penn State is 6 p.m.
Buckner’s presence would be advantageous against a team that is plus-6.5 in rebound margin and is off to a 4-0 start after going 11-20 last season. The Nittany Lions start four seniors in the lineup.
Forward Jeff Brooks (6-8, 200) scores outside as well as inside, and Andrew Jones (6-10, 245) gives Penn State a physical body in the middle.
The Rebels (2-1) struggled last year when Buckner was out or limited by a high ankle sprain, games in which they played their way out of a possible NCAA tournament berth.
“I wish the difference wasn’t that profound, but I see every day what he brings to our team,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “In games in which he’s played more than 15 minutes he’s typically blocked three or four shots, altered another four or five. He’s personally responsible for double-figure (opponent) points.”
Buckner set the Ole Miss record for blocked shots last season as a true freshman and is averaging 4.7 points and 5.0 rebounds through three games.
Ole Miss had a slight rebound edge in the first half against Dayton, but after Buckner’s exit, the Flyer’s were plus-16 on the glass for the second half.
“I have to step up and rebound more, defend the goal like he does,” junior center Terrance Henry said. “With Reggie we can do a lot of things defensive and offensively. He is our best rebounder, as everyone saw Friday. With him going down winning the game was a problem for us, but we can’t blame it on Reggie going down. We still had chances to win.”
The Nittany Lions are led in the backcourt by All-Big 10 guard Talor Battle with 16.8 points a game.
“I assume it will be a good matchup between he and Chris,” Kennedy said.
The Rebels need more from Chris Warren, their All-SEC guard, who has gotten off to a 2 for 21 start from 3-point range after shooting 43 percent behind the arc last season.
Women’s team in Hawaii
– The Ole Miss women’s basketball team (3-1) is in action tonight at 8:45 against Gonzaga (2-2) in the first round of the Waikiki Beach Showdown in Honolulu.
Freshman guard Valencia McFarland leads the team in scoring at 15.3 points a game. Senior guard Kayla Melson averages 13.0. Both are averaging more than four assists.
Ole Miss has wins against Jackson State, Sam Houston State and Nicholls State and a 72-70 loss to Arizona.
South Alabama and host Hawaii are also in the tournament.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.