Two to Go

The calendar will soon turn from February to March, the time of year when college basketball readies for its postseason tournaments.

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For Ole Miss, however, there is no looking ahead. No breaking down its postseason prospects. No bracketology watch.

No, the Rebels, at 16-12 overall and 6-8 in Southeastern Conference games, are taking a rather simplistic approach. Game by game. All of two games remain in the regular season, the first tonight at Arkansas at 6 pm. on ESPNU.

Two games to better position themselves for a postseason tournament run. Two games to make up for a difficult seven-game stretch, in which the Rebels finished 2-5. Two games to improve their precarious postseason position.

The NCAA tournament is no longer a realistic possibility, sans for an unforeseen run in the SEC tournament in New Orleans, La., next week. But the Rebels have some life for the NIT following a blowout, 72-48 win over LSU Saturday.

The game was a perfect illustration of Ole Miss' season thus far. The Rebels are capable of winning games and winning those games handily, having beaten capable opponents such as Mississippi State, Penn State and Miami. Some of their losses have show their capability, as well, including Florida and Alabama.

"For us, if we take the right approach and do the right things that have been productive for us," head coach Andy Kennedy said, "we have a chance to be competitive night-in and night-out. When we don't do those things, we don't have another area that we can increase in productivity to make up for it."

Ole Miss enters tonight's game tied with Arkansas and in-state rival Mississippi State for seventh place in the conference standings. Its RPI is No. 69 nationally. The Rebels beat Arkansas, 71-63, in their home opener Jan. 11.

Andy Kennedy
Associated Press

Ole Miss has won seven of the last eight overall against Arkansas.

"I wish we could take something of value from those numbers leading up to tomorrow night, but quite frankly I don't think it has any relevance whatsoever," Kennedy said. "We have both evolved over a seven-week period."

"I felt like we were two or three possessions away from stealing one on the road," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said of the first matchup between the teams. "This is a big ballgame for us. Hopefully we can get some momentum as we go down the last week of conference play. We've done well defending home court with the exception of the last two games."

Arkansas (18-11, 6-8 SEC) snapped a three-game losing streak with its 77-71 win at Auburn Saturday. The Razorbacks had won 17 straight games in Fayetteville this season before losing their last two home games to Florida and Alabama.

Freshman B.J. Young leads the Razorbacks, who rank four in the SEC in scoring offense, in scoring with 15.2 points per game.

Buckner holding up:

Junior forward Reginald Buckner has had a handful of his best games against Arkansas. Earlier in the year, he finished with eight points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.

However, last season, he had 15 combined blocked shots in two games against Arkansas, including a school-record-tying eight blocks in Fayetteville. He also posted 12 points and 11 rebounds in the road win.

Will Buckner be able to duplicate such success? Kennedy made mention recently of a chronic knee problem Buckner is battling as the regular season winds down. Buckner didn't start in the team's loss at Tennessee, though he did draw the start a game later against LSU.

"He's been OK," Kennedy said.

Ole Miss has played the most Thursday-Saturday turnaround games of any team in the conference: four. Its last Thursday-Saturday turnaround resulted in back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Kennedy said Buckner has held up well, considering.

Reginald Buckner
Associated Press

"A lot of talk had been made on the Thursday-Saturday swing, but the Saturday-Tuesday swing eliminates a day as well," Kennedy said. "He responded Sunday, practiced with the team. Hopefully he'll be ready to go Tuesday night."

Williams looking to finish strong:

Junior guard Nick Williams has come on strong in recent outings, last scoring 18 points in the Rebels' win over LSU. He ranks 17th in the conference in points scored in conference play with 12.2 points per game.

In the first meeting with Arkansas, Williams had 18 points and eight rebounds, tying for a career-high.

"We've encouraged Nick to stay aggressive, and he's been much more aggressive as we close down the stretch. He brings energy, a great attitude, and we know he's going to be dialed in mentally each and every game."

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