Gabriel proves his value in win over Ole Miss


Wenyen Gabriel #32 of the Kentucky Wildcats makes a 3 during the game against Ole Miss Wednesday, February 28, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Ole Miss 96-78. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Phillip Hawkins

In its last home game of the season, the Kentucky basketball team didn’t disappoint. 

The Cats pulled out a 96-78 win over the Ole Miss Rebels. This win marked Kentucky’s fourth straight win after the four-game losing streak.

Recap: Balanced offense leads UK to 18-point win over Ole Miss

The Cats’ win against Ole Miss was a big one, especially for sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel. 

Gabriel finished the game with 15 points and six rebounds. His double-digit points was the first time he scored in double figures since the game against Florida in late January.

“He made shots and made drives and we were dying and he went and made plays,” head coach John Calipari said of Gabriel’s performance.

With the Florida game coming up again this weekend, the team will need him to continue playing at this level.

Podcast: UK’s win over Ole Miss making Chris question his alliance

One of the areas in which Gabriel really helps the Cats is from the three-point arc. Against Ole Miss he went 2-4 from three. His ability to stretch the floor as a player his size adds a whole different dimension to this team. 

“I feel like in those moments it’s when you really when you find out who you are and we broke out of that and now we are just moving forward,” Gabriel said of the team’s shooting.

Not only does he knock down shots from deep, but he is also a fairly efficient scorer for this young team. Gabriel shot 5-8 from the field, shooting 62 percent. That was one of the better shooting games he’s had in a while. 

Besides games when he only took and made one shot from the field, this was the first time he shot over 50 percent since the same Florida game when he scored 10 points. When he can score the ball at this rate and with this consistency, he takes this team from good to really good. 

“Guys are just more confident out there when they know what they’re going to do and what they’re going to get,” Gabriel said. “Now we just go out there and play hard.”

Read: Cats find a new way to win in victory over Ole Miss

Another area in which Gabriel doesn’t get enough credit is in the rebounding column. He pulled down the third highest number of boards against Ole Miss with six. For the season, he is third on the team in rebounding, averaging 5.3 rebounds a game.

Consistently getting rebounds and scoring is what the team will need from him moving forward, especially with the NCAA tournament starting in two weeks.

These next few weeks will be crucial not only for Gabriel but the team in general. On the season, he is only averaging 5.9 points a game, but if the team wants to make a serious run in the tournament, the Cats will need Gabriel to keep playing like he did tonight.