Rebels pull away to keep tourney hopes alive

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ole Miss clearly wanted to stop Elston Turner. Texas A&M should have focused more on stopping Marshall Henderson.
Henderson, the SEC’s leading scorer, didn’t hurt his homestate school when Turner dominated the Rebels earlier this season in College Station. Henderson was quiet in the first half on Wednesday night, but he caught fire in the final 20 minutes finishing with 18 points on 6-for-13 3-point shooting to lead Ole Miss to an 82-73 win before 6,526 at Tad Smith Coliseum night.
Turner won the scoring battle with 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting. That was 12 points fewer than he pinned on Ole Miss at Texas A&M.
“I thought we were pretty good offensively. We didn’t defense as well as we needed to – they shot 54 percent on our home floor – but we turned them over 16 times,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
The Rebels’ (21-7, 10-5 SEC) second straight win wasn’t only about Henderson.
Seniors Reggie Buckner and Murphy Holloway gave energized performances, and Ole Miss had 15 second-chance points.
Holloway finished a re bound shy of his third-straight double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Buckner had three blocked shots and altered many others, all while missing much of the game with foul trouble. He had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Henderson was just 1-for-7 from the floor in the first half, 1-for-3 from the arc. The first 20 minutes featured eight lead changes. The Rebels had a 10-0 run to go ahead, then after a nip-and-tuck time surged again to lead 37-31 at the break.
Henderson’s struggles were inside the arc, and he finished 6-for-19 from the floor.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy called him the difference in the game.
“That and our inability to handle the ball inside against the zone,” he said.
tourney hope still alive
The win keeps alive the Rebels’ hopes for an NCAA tournament bid but doesn’t change the fact that they likely have to win out to get their. The next step in the process is Saturday afternoon at Mississippi State, and the Rebels will likely be without another post reserve, freshman Anthony Perez, who was all but carried off the floor after awkwardly twisting his left knee in a tangle with A&M’s other Turner, forward Ray Turner.
Andy Kennedy said he’s hopeful that Perez’ injury won’t be season-ending but did not speculate further. Perez was having one of his better games when he got hurt with five points and two rebounds in six minutes of play.
The Ole Miss lead reached 18 in the second half, but Elston Turner hit back-to-back 3s to cut a lead that had been 18 points to 72-61, and Ole Miss called time with 5 minutes, 28 seconds to play.
The Aggies (16-12, 6-9 SEC) made it a nine-point game with 1:44 left, but Henderson passed to Holloway for a dunk, and the Rebels were not challenged again.
“It’s always fun when the best players on your team get going at the same time,” Holloway said.
parrish.alford@journalinc.com