February 2, 2010 9:23:00 AM
David Miller -
Coming off a loss to the University of Arkansas and preparing for the nation''s No. 4-ranked team on one day''s rest and preparation is challenging enough.
But University of Mississippi men''s basketball coach Andy Kennedy could have a bigger issue the rest of the season.
Forward Reginald Buckner (sprained ankle) didn''t play Sunday in an 80-73 home loss to Arkansas. The impact freshman suffered the injury last week against Auburn, which left the No. 25 Rebels (16-5, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) without a key performer.
Kennedy said Arkansas exploited the absence of Buckner, a 6-foot-8 forward, who averages 2.4 blocked shots a game and is second on the team with five rebounds a game. He made it clear that tonight''s game against SEC-leading Kentucky (7, ESPN) will require some creative tinkering of the team''s rotations.
"We''re going to have to make some adjustments," Kennedy said Monday on the weekly SEC teleconference. "He''s our strongest and most athletic front-court player. He''s the only guy on our roster who realistically has a chance to match up with some of those guys wearing the big blue. It''s going to make us have to re-think some things, so we''re going to have to, by committee, find a way to hold our own up there."
Buckner is listed as day to day, but he will enter tonight''s game at the 23,000-seat Rupp Arena in street clothes. Ole Miss'' next two opponents -- Alabama and Mississippi State -- feature all-league caliber forwards in JaMychal Green and Jarvis Varnado, but neither team can match Kentucky''s depth up front.
Kennedy knows the Rebels'' post players will have to deliver a flawless performance tonight.
"Against Arkansas, they did a good job of playing angles on us and overpowering us at the basket, most especially when we got in foul trouble and we were small," Kennedy said. "Kentucky is outstanding with Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and (Daniel) Orton, and the young man who played last season, Perry Stevenson, who doesn''t get as much time, so we''re going to have to be very, very good and one step ahead of the game to have a chance to neutralize any of that inside strength."
Murphy Holloway, who scored 19 points and grabbed 17 rebounds against Arkansas, and DeAundre Canston will have a chore to keep Cousins and Patterson out of the lane and off the boards, but there''s always an equalizer with good teams.
Kentucky coach John Calipari sees that potential in Ole Miss guard Terrico White. The 6-foot-5 sophomore is second in scoring (15 points per game) behind team leader Chris Warren (16.7), and Calipari is interested to see how his guards handle a player he has dubbed "a pro" because he has a pair in that same mold in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
"I know how good some of their players are. I recruited a bunch of them," Calipari said. "Terrico, again, there''s going to be 25 pro scouts here because they want to see him against our team and us against a guy that talented. He is a pro."
The Wildcats (20-1, 5-1) bounced back from their first loss of the season against South Carolina with a top-25 win against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Against the Commodores, the Wildcats faced a more structured, Princeton-style offense that differs from Ole Miss man-up style, Calipari said. He believes the Wildcats will see more plays attacking at the basket.
"They play more physical and have a few more athletic guys," Calipari said. "They run a breakdown offense, in other words, they''re not going to get you off a pattern or some type of play. They''re going to get you on this guy got the ball here and he''s trying to score on you."
Kennedy hopes the fact that the game will be broadcast nationally will help his players be mentally focused and help them avoid any physical fatigue from the short turnaround.
"It was going to be a two-day turn, now it''s a one-day turn and we''ve just got to play them as they come," he said. "It''s a great opportunity to play in a legendary arena, and I''m sure it will be packed. That''s why kids want to come to the SEC. I hope our guys bounce back and come in with the right approach."