By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Tennessee’s fixation on Marshall Henderson might have helped the Vols for a half, but the Henderson legend grew even more Thursday night.
No. 23 Ole Miss, in its first game as a ranked team, was held to 18 points in the first half and trailed by seven at the break. But the Rebels, fueled by Henderson, scored 44 points in the second half to win 62-56 before a sellout crowd of 9,206 at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Leading up to Thursday, Tennessee players spoke openly of their desire to clamp down on Henderson after he scored 32 against them in Knoxville and was more expressive than they would have preferred.
In the rematch, he scored 24 in the second half, 28 for the game, going 6 for 15 from 3-point range. Ole Miss survived first-half foul trouble from its top two rebounders, Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner, and won in spite of being out-shot from the floor and the free throw line and outrebounded by 11.
Henderson said his Twitter feed was overrun by people telling him of comments coming from the Vols camp. He attributed them to an assistant coach as well as Tennessee guard Josh Richardson. Vols forward Jarnell Stokes spoke during the week about getting physical with Henderson to stop him from scoring – and stop his talking that way.
If Henderson was less talkative on the court he was more talkative later.
“I thought I would take a game off from talking and just let the game talk this time,” he said. “We’ll beat them 10 times out of 10.”
For now it’s just 2 for 2 this season and three straight wins over the Vols overall. Ole Miss (16-2, 5-0) goes for a ninth-straight win and a program-best 6-0 SEC record on Saturday night at Auburn.
The Vols (9-8, 1-4 SEC) did crank up the defense – at least for a time – and held Ole Miss to 17.4 percent shooting over the first 20 minutes.
Henderson was 0-for-4 from the floor – all 3-point attempts – during that time, but found his rhythm after halftime.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said it was about Henderson getting hot, not the Rebels getting him better shots.
‘that crazy leaner’
“Nothing really changed. I didn’t think they defended him any differently this game than the last game,” Kennedy said. “I thought he had some good looks in the first half, and he missed them. Once he got going, made that crazy leaner, then he just got combustible and started knocking down shots.”
Henderson was 6 for 11 from the arc in the second half include a shot from the deep wing after Buckner rebounded a missed free throw by Holloway. That made it 56-53 Ole Miss with 4 minutes, 9 seconds left.
Holloway and Buckner were more active as Ole Miss shot 53.8 percent in the second half.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said he didn’t think the last 20 minutes were about a letdown from the Vols (9-8, 1-4 SEC).
“It’s a credit to (Henderson) for staying aggressive, staying in the game, and being ready when his time comes,” Martin said. “Once he makes a couple and gets his head up, he’s rolling.”