The Wildcats start SEC Tournament play against the Chris Warren led Ole Miss Rebels after they downed South Carolina, 66-55, in opening round play. In their first contest in Oxford, a Warren three, with a hand in his face, was the difference at the buzzer as the Rebels handed Kentucky one of their six eventual SEC road losses.
Warren (5-10, 168), who is now finally a senior, is one of those guys that seems like he has played forever because he has been producing since his freshman year. He also has the ability to carry the Rebels to victories by himself. He averaged 15.8 points his rookie season, followed that with 19.6 the next year, 17.2 the next and is averaging 18.9 points during his senior campaign.
In their first round win over the Gamecocks, he led Ole Miss with 20 points, while shooting 7-for-16 from the floor. He has 322 made threes in his career, which ranks in top five in SEC history and is shooting 34-percent from deep on the year.
He is also exceptional at the line. Earlier this year, his streak of consecutive free throws was halted at 36, finishing one shy of Dave Rhodes’ school record. Warren is among the nation’s best in free throw shooting with 93.5 percent clip.
Warren has a unique presence on the floor and a certain poise to his game. He gets in the lane and has the ability to pull up and make shots. The senior guard doesn’t need to get all the way to the rim to score.
He has scored in double figures in all but one game this year, he scored nine in that contest, and has 1,958 points in his career.
The only other player averaging double figures for the Rebs is senior guard Zach Graham (6-6, 218). Graham enters the UK game averaging 14.4 points-per-game and he does an excellent job of using his big body to get to the rim. He plays a lot bigger than his size indicates. He has also developed into a decent threat from deep. Last year he knocked down a career-high 50 threes and shot nearly 40-percent from distance. His numbers are down this year, just 43 makes at a 34-percent clip, but he is still a threat.
Inside they rely on sophomore Reginald Bucker (6-8, 233) and junior Terrance Henry (6-9, 205). They are not that big underneath. This is not a great rebounding team, as they rank ninth in the SEC with 39.5 per game. Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson have to take advantage of Ole Miss on the glass.
Henry is third on the team in scoring with 9.3 points and is second in rebounds with 5.8. He is long, but extrememly thin underneath. Buckner leads the team in rebounds with 6.6 and blocks with 3.1, while averaging 7.1 points.
Ole Miss is a team that relies on their offense to win games. They want to score and at times it seems as if they allow their opponent to score in an effort to get the ball back. They are third in the SEC in scoring with 74.4 points. Kentucky is first with 76.8.
This is not a team you want to send to the line and allow them to score with the clock sitting still. Not only will it get UK in foul trouble, but Ole Miss is the best free throw shooting team in the SEC, at 75.9 percent.
This is a good matchup for the Wildcats. You are talking about an offensive oriented squad, with a lack of size and depth underneath, that likes to get up and down the court.
Kentucky should get revenge on Warren and Ole Miss and move on to the semis on Saturday.
Kentucky 79, Ole Miss 68