The SEC basketball fans outside of Oxford can get their best jeers, sneers and catcalls ready for the remaining 16 games. Marshall Henderson returns this week.
The Rebels take on LSU on Wednesday night at 8 in Henderson’s first appearance of conference play.
He missed the first two games as part of his predetermined suspension. The Rebels were 1-1 without him, winning at home against Auburn and losing at Mississippi State where they’ve struggled to win regardless of circumstances.
Henderson led the SEC in scoring last year with 20.1 points a game and is currently averaging 18.8.
Re-inserting that type of burst to your lineup might set some teams on an NCAA tournament path.
That’s not necessarily the case here.
With four pre-conference losses and an RPI of 83, the Rebels will have to do their primary resume building within SEC play, which means they must either improve on last year’s 12-6 league mark or duplicate their SEC tournament run to earn a second-straight NCAA bid.
The Rebels need better post play, and they need a dependable third scoring option to assist Henderson and Jarvis Summers, who might be the SEC’s most improved player.
Minus Henderson last week, LaDarius White averaged 13 points. He had 16 at MSU, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
There will be fewer shots to be had with Henderson in the game, but White must get his and must be efficient with them. He was 5-for-11 from the arc against Auburn and MSU. However, the MSU game increased his success rate to only 27.7 percent.
The Rebels can’t afford for him to go into a shell with Henderson back.
White, at 6-foot-6, 211 pounds, has the ability to penetrate and score and is too valuable on the move for the 3-point shot to be the only element of his game, but if teams respect him on the perimeter he’ll get to the rim more.
Turn the page?
After the MSU game, Kennedy said it might be time to “turn the page” to some of the younger players in the paint. Ole Miss was plus-10 on the glass in the loss, ending a string of six games in which it was out-rebounded.
Freshmen Sebastian Saiz and Dwight Coleby and sophomore Anthony Perez did some good things in Starkville but haven’t shown that they’re physical enough to go strong to the hole and score.
Aaron Jones has done that some. If Demarco Cox was doing it a little more, he’d make a strong case to retain more of the 24-plus minutes he was averaging before playing only 10 at MSU.
Having Henderson will give the Rebels a lift. They need him.
But that’s not where the needs stop.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal.