By Teresa M. Walker/The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marshall Henderson saw nobody in front of him with time running out, so he heaved the ball at the basket, beating the buzzer to force overtime.
Just as the Ole Miss guard planned.
His desperation heave gave the Rebels the extra time they needed, and Nick Williams’ jumper put Ole Miss ahead to stay in rallying to beat Vanderbilt 89-79 Tuesday night for their sixth straight win. Henderson said he knew he would come down and hit the overtime forcing shot.
“I didn’t actually shoot it the way I wanted to shoot it,” Henderson said. “I didn’t have any rotation on it. I just kind of floated in there, but I’ll take it.”
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said Henderson, the junior college transfer, is the player everyone wanted to take that shot.
“He’s a gunslinger, and that’s what he’s here for,” Kennedy said.
Williams called Henderson’s shot unbelievable.
“I just stood back and watched the Jumbotron,” Williams said. “I wasn’t sure he got it off, but he got it off.”
The Rebels (14-2, 3-0) took it from there in extending the Southeastern Conference’s longest winning streak by winning in Memorial Gym for the first time since 2001, and they had to do it by rallying from 13 points with 8:39 left.
Kevin Bright hit the Commodores’ 17th 3, giving Vandy a 78-75 lead with 3.2 seconds left in regulation. Henderson flung the ball at the basket from about 35 feet away, and he ran around the court celebrating. Williams hit his jumper with 4:34 left in overtime, and the Rebels outscored Vanderbilt 11-1 in overtime to snap the Commodores’ five-game winning streak in this series.
“It was just brainless on our part because we didn’t match up the right way,” Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson said of Henderson’s shot.
Vanderbilt (6-9, 0-3) set a Memorial Gym record hitting 17 3-pointers but couldn’t overcome poor free throw shooting (10 of 23).
Kennedy said his Rebels simply were relieved in the locker room after the game to escape with a win in a place where few Ole Miss teams have left victorious.
“You think you’re going to walk in this building and just roll it out there and win you’re sadly mistaken, and our guys learned that, almost had to learn it the hard way,” Kennedy said. “Thank goodness we didn’t.”
Henderson finished with a game-high 26 points for the Rebels, who are 3-0 in league play for the first time since 2005-06 and now have their best start since opening the 2007-08 season 15-1. Jarvis Summers added 14 points, and Reginald Buckner posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Rebels improved to 6-47 against Vandy in Nashville by finishing the game on a 35-12 run including overtime.
Vanderbilt had its chances to close out the game in regulation. Coach Kevin Stallings even tried to take a timeout after Bright’s 3 to set up the defense for the final shot, but the Commodores lost their third straight and fifth in six games by missing five straight free throws when they had a chance to protect the lead.
“It’s safe to say we should have won that game and did just enough to lose it,” Stallings said. “It looked like a team that expected to lose. When you do things that are inexplicable and that make no basketball sense whatsoever, you’re waiting to lose.”
They managed only three 3-pointers in the final 5 minutes of regulation, topping the 16 3-pointers Vanderbilt had against South Carolina in 1994 and against Arkansas in 1994. They just missed the team record of 18 made 3s set Jan. 18, 2005, at Tennessee. Six different Commodores hit at least a 3-pointer apiece.
Johnson led Vandy with 19 points, including 5 of 11 beyond the arc. Dai-Jon Parker, in his first career start, added 16, Sheldon Jeter had 13 and Bright finished with 12. Stallings had little to say about the free throw woes, an emphasis in practice for months.
“They missed,” Stallings said. “I can’t shoot it for them. They make them in practice.”
With the Commodores shooting away from outside, the Rebels dominated inside the paint outscoring Vandy 44-16 down low. They needed every bit.
Ole Miss came in fourth in the SEC and 34th nationally holding opponents to 38.2 percent shooting and 10th in holding them to 26 percent from 3-point range. The Rebels just couldn’t stop Vanderbilt no matter how far out the Commodores shot.
The teams finished with 11 lead changes and five ties. Vanderbilt had its biggest lead at 67-54 on a layup by Josh Henderson before going cold. But at least Vandy managed more than the 11 points scored in the first half of its loss at Arkansas.
The Commodores, 16th nationally for scoring 36.8 percent of their points off 3s, just couldn’t seem to miss from beyond the arc against Ole Miss. They matched their season high making 12 of 20 3-pointers with 1:22 left in the first half on a bucket by Bright for 60 percent accuracy.
Read more in Wednesday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.