By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
– Looking back: The Rebels were out-shot 49 percent to 38 percent in a 71-63 loss at Mississippi State.
Just as important, they were outscored at the free throw line 15-3.
The Rebels were again missing freshman Reggie Buckner, who was their best low-post defender and an emerging offensive player when he sustained a high ankle sprain at Auburn on Jan. 28. Buckner has missed the last four games, and his status for Thursday’s home game against No. 22 Vanderbilt is unclear.
– Looking ahead: At MSU, the Rebels missed a chance to elevate themselves in the Western Division. They begin the week third place, a game behind co-leaders MSU and Arkansas and a game ahead of Alabama.
The Rebels take on Vanderbilt (19-5, 8-2) Thursday at 6 in Oxford. The game will be televised by ESPN2. On Saturday the Rebels are at home against Florida (17-8, 6-4).
– Who’s hot: Junior guard Eniel Polynice had 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting, six rebounds, five assists and only one turnover in 37 minutes against MSU.
– Who’s not: Junior guard Chris Warren, the team’s leading scorer, was held to a season-low three points against MSU, 1-for-9 from the floor, 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
– RPI watch: The Rebels’ RPI dropped nine spots to No. 45 after the MSU loss. They have a chance for a key RPI win against Vanderbilt, which is No. 16.
– Bottom line: Ole Miss had a chance to relieve some pressure on the quest for a 9-7 SEC mark by beating MSU. Instead, they must go 4-2 in their last six to achieve 9-7, which does not guarantee an NCAA bid but would allow the Rebels to present a strong case on Selection Sunday.