By Parrish Alford
NASHVILLE – Memorial Gym is where it all began.
Ole Miss fans had seen Marshall Henderson put 32 on Tennessee in Knoxville in his first SEC game. They had a pre-conference schedule to be introduced to his ways.
It was Henderson’s near-halfcourt shot to force overtime against Vanderbilt, however, that vaulted him into the nation’s college basketball consciousness.
“It was one game, but honestly it was probably the jump-off for this phenomenon … 365 days later, this Marshall Henderson phenomenon,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
Henderson and the Rebels are back at Memorial Gym tonight. The tip is at 8 p.m., and the foe is a much more depleted Vanderbilt than the team Ole Miss beat twice last season.
Henderson’s shot might have gotten less play had the Rebels not gone on to win 89-79. They would go on to defeat Vanderbilt in Nashville a second time with a 64-52 win in the SEC tournament semifinals.
Through injuries and attrition, this year’s Commodores are down to seven scholarship players and two walk-ons. They upset Missouri in Memorial Gym last week but then lost 81-58 at LSU.
There have been good times and bad in the Henderson phenomenon.
There was a traffic stop in which small amounts of marijuana and cocaine were found, according to a Wall Street Journal report. There was the three-game suspension, and there was the flipping off of fans at the NCAA tournament.
But there also was the NCAA tournament appearance, the first time since 2002 for Ole Miss. There’s been an SEC tournament championship, a season in which Henderson led the league in scoring at 20.1 points a game and produced an SEC record 138 3-point field goals.
Last year’s win at Memorial Gym, the Rebels’ first there since 2001, “was closely followed by our win at Auburn with (Henderson’s) jersey-popping, and this thing took on a life of its own,” Kennedy said.
Ole Miss seemed poised to walk out of Memorial with a three-point loss after Vanderbilt knocked down its 17th 3-pointer of the game with 3.2 seconds left.
Kennedy did not call a timeout. Henderson threw the ball into Jarvis Summers, who let it roll before picking it up near the key.
The defender assigned to Henderson wasn’t particularly close to him and complicating matters by slipping. Henderson had an unobstructed path to midcourt and launched the game-tying shot about 10 feet later.
“I was thinking about refraining from doing what my instincts were telling me to do to one of my own players for making the mistake to let him get that shot, which was completely unnecessary and uncalled for,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “I was not surprised it went in, because he’s a great shot-maker.”
The shot traveled quickly with the help of ESPN and the internet.
Henderson goes into tonight’s game leading the SEC in 3-pointers made (62) and eighth in percentage (38.3). He’s the current SEC player of the week.
“We didn’t call a timeout. We got the ball in the guy’s hands that we wanted. I give Jarvis more credit than I would give anyone else,” Kennedy said. “He was the one that didn’t panic, and he got Marshall where at least he was square to the basket.”