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Buckner looking for consistency in senior campaign

Phillip Waller/The Daily Mississippian

 
In his career at Ole Miss, senior forward Reginald Buckner has been a defensive force and rebounding machine, but offensively, Buckner has struggled to be consistent. 
 
Last season, the Memphis native averaged just 6.9 points per game, and inconsistent scoring kept him from being a major factor for the offense. In the first two conference games last season, he scored 11 total points. The next two games, he scored 30 total points, but followed that with just 11 total points in the following two games. 
 
His scoring ranged from zero points in a loss at Tennessee to 19 in a win against Mississippi State. He scored in double figures seven times last year but was held under five points nine times. 
 
Head coach Andy Kennedy has seen some improvements that may help Buckner become more consistent this season. 
“Reg (Buckner) is a guy that has unlimited potential,” Kennedy said. “He’s a very talented guy. He can be as good as he wants to be. Offensively, he’s come by leaps and bounds.”
The most noticeable area where Buckner struggles is free throws. His career free throw percentage is 44 percent. Last year, he shot a career-low 41.7 percent. In Buckner’s biggest game against Mississippi State, he could have scored more than 19 points as he was just 3-of-10 from the free throw line. 
 
His inability to make free throws has given opposing teams a strategy to keep Buckner from scoring. Rather than allow Buckner to get off a clean shot, defenders can foul him and often surrender one or zero points. 
 
Another reason Buckner has struggled to score consistently has been foul trouble. Buckner fouled out eight times last season, four times in the final seven games. He also ended nine more games with four fouls. 
 
Buckner will need to stay on the floor more for Ole Miss this season. He averaged 27 minutes per game last year, the fewest of any starter. That can be solved by fouling less, but also by playing more consistently.
 
“I’ve been proud of the way he has matured and his ability to sustain energy and effort for longer periods,” Kennedy said.
 
Fortunately for Buckner, Ole Miss relies on its defense, one of his strengths.
 
“Defense wins games,” Buckner said. “We preach defense.”
 
The 6-foot-9 forward is the all-time leading shot blocker in Ole Miss history with 228. He had a block in 30 of the 32 games he played last year. 
 
The senior is the third-leading returning rebounder in the SEC this season. He averaged 8.1 rebounds per game last season and had double-digit rebounds in 11 games. Ole Miss went 9-2 in those 11 games. 
 
Buckner will try to sustain his defensive dominance and find some consistency on the offensive end to help Ole Miss reach the NCAA Tournament in Buckner’s final season.
 
“We’re all on one page,” Buckner said. “We are all a family. Everybody wants the same goal. Everybody knows our number one goal is to make the tournament.”
 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss men’s basketball, follow @thedm_sports and @Tyler_RSR on Twitter.