Reggie Buckner got all he needed just watching Wisconsin warm-up.
“I was like, ‘Man, they moving kind of slow,” said Buckner after he blocked five shots, altered many others, and was simply the face of a defense that allowed Ole Miss to beat Wisconsin at its own game … the slow-down game.
Regional stereotypes don’t always apply. Here they do. If you believe the South has speed and athleticism and the North has strength and a methodical style, The Rebels’ first NCAA tournament win since 2001 supports your theory.
Buckner, not an outstanding offensive player, left points on the table in Friday’s game.
Had he been a little more efficient from the floor or the free-throw line, the loss for fifth-seeded Wisconsin could have looked a lot worse.
As it was, it must have brought a smile from SEC commissioner Mike Slive to see 12th-seeded Ole Miss – after a year of the SEC getting punked in the national conversation – make one of the Big Ten’s best teams look so out of sorts at the end while it looked for quick 3-pointers. Not Wisconsin’s style.
Obviously, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy would have gladly accepted 16 points a game from Buckner. He didn’t get it, but what he’s gotten in return – when Buckner is motivated to play – in invaluable.
A senior on his last ride, Buckner has been motivated down the stretch. Indeed, all the Rebels have since their stunning 73-67 loss at rival Mississippi State.
While fans cheered and the Wisconsin fight song played, Buckner watched. And he knew he had an edge.
His counterpart, Wisconsin senior Jared Berggren was 2-for-10 from the floor, 1-for-5 from 3-point range, many in the Badgers’ frantic final seconds.
“I’m quicker than him. I just let him catch it at the high post, then try to collapse on him, so he would just get nervous and pass it out,” Buckner said.
It was a plan that worked, and it’s a big reason the Rebels will play Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16.
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.