In a game with five technicals, this next statement comes as no surprise: last night’s game was a physical one. Especially in the first half, Ole Miss came out fighting… almost literally. Marcanvis Hymon received not one but two technical fouls within the first four minutes of action, leading to a quick ejection for the Rebels. Nick Richards picked up a T of his own on the same series. But at least one player wasn’t surprised by the early toughness: Wenyen Gabriel.
“It was kind of expected – any time you play against a team that has nothing to lose at this point, you know they’re going to play well and they’re going to come out and play physical,” Gabriel said. “It’s always been physical in this type of environment, and you’ve just got to be ready for that. You’ve got to be able to fight back.”
So fight back he did – at one point, maybe even a little too much. Gabriel was hit with a technical foul at the mid-way point in the second half after what he called a “scuffle” with an Ole Miss player. When asked if the scuffle was warranted, Gabriel replied, “I guess so – I was trying to get the ball.”
Gabriel certainly went after the ball, finishing the night with six rebounds while adding 15 points and two assists. The game marked his first double figure scoring night since the Florida loss in January. And based on his recent performances, Gabriel clearly enjoys playing in such a physical environment.
“I think we play better in that type of environment, sometimes,” Gabriel said. “Teams rough us around, it turns into an up-and-down game, and we can usually play better when we’re in the fast break.”
And he’s not the only one who thinks this team thrives in aggressive environments. Quade Green also commented on the rough-and-toughness of Wednesday’s game.
“I love the [physicality]. We all love that,” Green said. “[Other teams] are going to do what they’re going to do to win; we going to do what we’re going to do to win.”
With the Florida game looming, does Gabriel think the team’s recent winning streak – especially wins against physical opponents – changes Kentucky’s mentality going into the rematch with the Gators?
“I don’t know about change, but it just adds to our mentality. We’re winners right now, and it’s just that mentality of winning every game and building that into our culture.”