By Parrish Alford
Opponents know Marshall Henderson can get hot.
If he gets hot in two halves, that could be the boost Ole Miss needs to overcome recent road woes that have left the Rebels on the outside of the NCAA conversation.
Ole Miss goes into the weekend with an RPI of 81 but remains in contention for the double bye for the SEC tournament. The league’s top four teams skip the first two days of action.
Getting there may require two road wins – today at 5 against Texas A&M (16-12, 7-8 SEC) and Wednesday at Arkansas.
“Those things will drive you crazy trying to figure out the scenarios. We’ve just got to prepare for Texas A&M, who’s also in that scenario, and try to break through on the road,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
This much requires no more figuring. Henderson hitting shots gives the Rebels (17-11, 8-7 SEC) their best chance to win.
Henderson leads the NCAA with 4.4 made 3-pointers per game.
He’s made only 12 of his last 38 attempts (31.5 percent) over the last three games, however.
While his two 3-pointers in the first half on Wednesday helped Ole Miss establish control against Alabama and his 22 first-half points against No. 1 Florida put the Rebels in contention, Henderson was shut out in the second half of both games.
Teams are trying to push Henderson farther from the basket. After falling behind, Alabama coach Anthony Grant went with a more athletic lineup with more players who could trade assignments through the Rebels’ screens.
“When they had a true 5 (center) in the game they weren’t switching out, so we were playing to the strong side. Then Anthony made the adjustment,” Kennedy said. “They were down 13-15 points, he threw caution to the wind and went with guys who could switch everything, and I don’t know if Marshall scored from that point on.”
It was then that Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summers began to have more success in the lane. So did Henderson, who dished out a key assist late to help the Rebels push their lead back to double figures.
Henderson had 13 points against Alabama and is the SEC’s fourth-leading scorer at 19.3 points a game.
“We’ve got to set more screens and watch for our bigs when they do set the screens,” Summers said. “We’ve got to get our bigs going so teams won’t switch on Marshall, and I can get him open looks instead of him taking hard shots.”