Rebels take aim at No. 14 Gators

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – It’s taken a while for Ole Miss to establish its offense in the post-Chris Warren Era.
The Rebels’ three-point bomber for four years, the diminuitive Warren ended his career as the third-leading scorer in school history.
Not only have the Rebels sought to replace Warren, but another 1,000-point scorer in Zach Graham.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy issued a December call for his veterans to increase their production, and while no one answered immediately, all have answered in different times and different ways.
It’s a trend the Rebels need to continue tonight against No. 14 Florida. Tipoff at Tad Smith Coliseum is 6 p.m., and the game will be televised by ESPN2.
Last week the Rebels (13-6, 3-2 SEC) got a rare outburst from junior forward Reggie Buckner whose 19 points and 14 rebounds set the pace in a 75-67 win over rival Mississippi State.
At Georgia, Terrance Henry had 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Murphy Holloway and Nick Williams each added 12 points.
“Coach looks up to me, Murph, Nick, and Terrance. Whoever steps up that night has to step up for all of us,” said Buckner, who is averaging 11 rebounds a game in SEC play.
Henry’s defense against MSU point guard Dee Bost was a key element in the Rebels’ win, and Henry, who stands 6-foot-9, was also assigned to chase and harass smaller guards at Georgia.
Against MSU, he backed up Buckner with 12 points, and after averaging 18 points in two games, Henry was named SEC Player of the Week.
Williams, meanwhile, has maintained consistency in the scoring column with four-straight double-figure games, including 17 points against MSU.
He reached double figures in only one SEC game last year and is presently averaging 9.7 points, compared to last year’s average of 6.2.
Buckner’s journey
The contributions of others allowed Buckner to fall back offensively at Georgia. Before the Rebels’ first road win he posted back-to-back double-figure scoring games for the first time this season.
Buckner credits new assistant coach Al Pinkins for helping him develop his offensive game in the off-season.
Getting off a shot in the SEC requires more savvy from Buckner – a known defender – who was challenged less at Class A Manassas High School in Memphis.
“In high school, I just did everything. I brought the ball down the floor. I just played,” he said.
Kennedy says Buckner is playing the best basketball of his career over the last two weeks, but he’s yet to call on Buckner to bring the ball up the floor.
“We do things where we allow him to handle the ball on the perimeter. He’s got a three-dribble limit, and then some alarm is supposed to go off in Tad Smith,” Kennedy said.
All things considered, Kennedy doesn’t expect prolific offense from this team.
“We’ve come to realize we’re pretty good in halfcourt D. We can’t give it to teams in the open floor where they have advantage breaks. In the games in which we do a good job of that defensively, we’re able to stay in games until we can manufacture enough points,” Kennedy said.
parrish.alford@journalinc.com