By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – If guard play is the mark of a good postseason team, Ole Miss is off to a roaring start.
The Rebels, loaded with front line experience, got a career-high 32 points from junior college transfer Marshall Henderson and assertive offense from starting point guard Jarvis Summers, defeating Tennessee 92-74 before 17,059 at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night.
Henderson, in his first SEC game, was only 3 for 12 from 3-point range but hit big shots late and before that was still a factor in the offense.
He was 13 for 14 from the free throw line, and Ole Miss was 38 for 44 from the line as a team.
It all helped the Rebels win an SEC opener for the first time under Andy Kennedy.
As good as guard play was, Kennedy was most impressed with the Rebels’ (12-2, 1-0 SEC) rebounding. Ole Miss was just plus-3 at halftime but finished the game plus-15 on the glass.
“That just doesn’t happen to Tennessee in this building,” Kennedy said.
The rebounds and the free throws made up for efficiency on offense that was sometimes lacking.
making it work
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but on the road you have to be physical in the paint, you have to drive it, and you have to make your foul shots. That’s what we did,” Kennedy said.
Henderson began the night as the SEC’s leading scorer, but his early shooting didn’t resemble that lofty status.
He missed his first eight 3-point shots, but he knocked down 3s on back-to-back possessions as Ole Miss pushed its lead to 16 points with 9 minutes, 19 seconds to play.
The Vols (8-5, 0-1) didn’t allow Ole Miss to go to cruise control at that point.
Tennessee answered with 3-point shots from Derek Reese and Jordan McCrae, and less than a minute after Henderson’s big shots, the lead was 10 points again.
Tennessee got as close as eight points back, but Henderson wasn’t finished. He scored nine points over the last 6:56 including a 3-pointer at the 5:03 mark that made it 79-64 and sent Vols fans scurrying for the exits.
Henderson said he stopped counting his 3-point misses but felt great relief when the first one dropped.
“Coach Kennedy has told me all the time you’ve got to be a serial killer, and don’t let anything affect you. I don’t,” he said.
Before Henderson blew things open – twice – Jarvis Summers made sure the Vols didn’t charge up Rocky Top. Ole Miss led by eight at the break, and Summers scored the team’s first nine points of the second half with aggressive moves to the rim.
“When Jarvis starts doing that it opens it up for everybody else,” Henderson said. “They start to be a little hesitant to stay on me.”