By Parrish Alford
ATLANTA – You can often see the end coming from a mile away, but it tends to sneak up on you anyway.
It hit Marshall Henderson like a ton of bricks Saturday morning.
It was after midnight in the Eastern time zone when Henderson cried before media for the second time in a week, pondering the likely end of his college basketball career.
Georgia guard Charles Mann sealed it when he grabbed a loose ball and drove the lane for a layup with 17 seconds left, the winning basket in a 75-73 Bulldogs victory that sent Georgia into the SEC tournament semifinals.
It was the third shot of the possession for Georgia, the finishing touches applied by Mann, whose free throw with 1.6 seconds left beat the Rebels 61-60 in Athens on Feb. 15.
Henderson’s final college game was one of his worst from an efficiency standpoint. He was 2-for-16 from 3-point range, but that figure was obscured by the demands of his coach.
“They just said, ‘Keep shooting, keep shooting. We’re going to live by it or die by it. Let it ride,’” Henderson said.
The difference in this green light and so many others for Henderson during his record-setting two-year Ole Miss career is this one came with instructions for his technique.
It was advice for Henderson and his teammates as well.
“They kept telling us to get our weight forward, shoulders back, especially me coming up short,” he said. “It’s tough trying to think about that when you’ve got a guy chasing you.”
There were plenty of Georgia guys chasing Henderson.
The last time he played against them he was 5-for-11 from 3-point range and kept the Rebels in the game.
“He deserves special attention, and we worked hard on how to cover him,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “He’s a terrific player and has really matured as a person and competitor.”
The Rebels could have used some special attention on Mann. Ultimately his decisive bucket was a capsule look at a season-long problem for Ole Miss – rebounding.
It didn’t help matters that by that time two of the Rebels’ bigs – Dwight Coleby and Sebastian Saiz – had long since fouled out in a game that featured 51 fouls called.
In spite of the fouls the Rebels were competitive on the glass, minus-1 for the game. They were minus-15 against the Bulldogs in Athens.
“We couldn’t secure the rebound,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “They got three shots, and their point guard … Charles Mann is as good as there is in our league off the dribble.”
When the ball found Mann he was not confused on how to react. It was the same manner as he did in Athens, only this time he got the field goal instead of the foul.
“The ball bounced to me, and I just wanted to attack the rim,” he said.
Henderson felt the brunt of the attack as much as anyone as the curtain closed – most likely – on a flamboyant, colorful and controversial two-year run that saw him score 1,272 points, just the fourth player in school history to reach 1,000 points in two seasons.
“There are just so many thoughts running through my head about everything it took to get here and then to go out like that … It’s crushing in my heart. I wanted it so bad for everyone,” Henderson said.