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UK Basketball Preview: Know Your Enemy – Mississippi Rebels

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by Paul Jordan

GAME 22 – 2/2/2010

RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY

TV – ESPN – 7 PM

#25 MISSISSIPPI REBELS (16-5) (4-2)

KENTUCKY LEADS SERIES 96-12

RECENT MEETINGS:

3/12/2009: KENTUCKY 71 OLE MISS 58 (SEC TOURNEY)

1/27/2009: OLE MISS 85 KENTUCKY 80

2/27/2008: KENTUCKY 58 OLE MISS 54

1/6/2007: KENTUCKY 68 OLE MISS 58

3/9/2006: KENTUCKY 71 OLE MISS 57 (SEC TOURNEY)

2/22/2006: KENTUCKY 80 OLE MISS 40

Given their history, the Ole Miss Rebels have been the equivalent of a sure win as much as any other SEC team the past several years. UK has won 13 of the past 15 games against Ole Miss and is 48-2 in Lexington against the Rebels. That stat is a bit misleading because the last UK team to lose at home to the Rebels was the 1998 National Champs. That should be enough reason to not take the Rebels lightly. The other reason is that the Rebels are actually a pretty good team and were recently ranked #18th in the country and one of the SEC teams that look to be a solid tournament team right now.

THE STARTERS

G – ENIEL POLYNICE – JR 6’5 220

10.4 ppg, 4.3 reb, 4.2 assists

G – CHRIS WARREN – JR 5’10 168

16.7 ppg, 1.7 reb, 3.2 assists

G – TERRICO WHITE – SO 6’5 213

15.4 ppg, 4.6 reb, 1.5 assists

F – TERRANCE HENRY – SO 6’9 202

5.2 ppg, 3 reb, 0.6 assists

F- DEANDRE CRANSTON – SR 6’9 260

4.8 ppg, 4.1 reb, 0.5 assists

The strength of this Ole Miss team revolves around it’s guard play. Chris Warren and Terrico White make up perhaps one of the best guard tandems in the SEC so it will be interesting to see the battle between Warren/White and Wall/Bledsoe-Dodson. Chris Warren is a virtual clone of Devan Downey in that while undersized, he uses his speed and smarts to outplay and outhustle bigger players. He is also a 40.8% shot from beyond the arc, which makes him especially dangerous. White has good size at 6’5 and is a pretty good rebounder. He is not as good a shot as Warren, but uses his size to create shots for himself. His scoring has dipped a bit since entering SEC play, but he is still capable of dumping 20 points on any given night. Like Chris Warren, Eniel Polynice is also recovering from a knee injury that caused him to miss most of last season. Polynice is not as flashy as the other two guards but he is very consistent and gets a lot of rebounds. He is pretty quick defensively with 29 steals on the season. Zach Graham is another big threat off the bench as he is third on the team in scoring with 10.2 points and 3.6 boards. Graham is hitting 43.5% of his 3-pointers. Trevor Gaskins plays about 14 minutes a game from the guard position and averages about 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists a game. Gaskins is capable of being a real impact as evidenced by his 11 points in 9 minutes at Georgia.

The Bulldogs have an interesting rotation for their forwards as Terrance Henry and DeAndre Cranston usually start but pretty quickly give way to the more productive Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. Henry has a pretty good shooting percentage at 67.3 and he is the occasional 3 point threat, hitting 9-15 on the season. Cranston is not much of a scoring threat. He scored 21 in the Rebel’s season opener and his highest scoring game since was 8 points in three games. He is a decent rebounder but should be no match for UK’s post players. Sophomore Murphy Holloway may be more of a threat as he is averaging 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. He his coming off a 19 point, 17 rebound performance against Arkansas and has proven to be pretty adept at getting offensive rebounds. Buckner is a 6’8 freshman that is averaging 5 points and 5 rebounds in just 18 minutes a game and is hitting 60% of his shots and blocking about 2 shots a game.

OUTLOOK

Make no mistake the Rebe
ls have lots of good guards that can present a problem for UK. Warren, White, and Graham have 130 3-pointers among them and will throw up plenty of attempts. If UK can prevent the guards and Warren especially from having a career game, that may be the key. The Rebels are not a strong team near the basket, but Holloway and Buckner are approving game by game. Cousins and Patterson should both be able to score with no problem in this game is Wall and the guards can get them the ball.

Another interesting subplot is the Memphis connection. Both Buckner and White hail from Memphis and you would think they would want to play big against the former czar of Memphis, Calipari. In the end, Warren could be the x-factor but after Downey’s performance, I can see UK making sure they shut Warren down. If Warren is not allowed to get loose, it can be a long night for the Rebels as Cousins and Patterson pound away inside. Sorry, but I don’t see UK falling at Rupp this season. UK 83 Mississippi 71.

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