By Jim O’Connell
NEW YORK – Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy called the play down the stretch of Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers “huge.”
Then he gave a quick look into the differences of the players who led the undefeated Rebels to a 79-76 victory over Penn State on Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic.
Both Summers and Henderson scored 19 points and they combined for 11 of the Rebels’ last 12 points over the final 5:36.
“Jarvis is our leading scorer coming in and he was in foul trouble both games here but he is our most experienced player and when they hit us in the mouth in the second half he got in his rhythm,” Kennedy said. “I trust him. He was the guy who made plays for us.”
Then there’s Henderson, the free spirit and star of last season’s Ole Miss team that advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002 but who was suspended for his actions toward fans after the loss to La Salle.
“Marshall does what Marshall does,” Kennedy said. “He plays around and takes crazy shots and changes the ebb and flow of the game. I see him make one 3 and then play close attention. He can shoot it a couple more times really quickly.”
Henderson, who was not made available to speak to the media, had a quick encounter with some fans in the sparse crowd of 3,088 at Barclays Center in the second half and referee Ted Valentine took him to the bench for a quick meeting with Kennedy.
“Somebody in the crowd said something to him and he responded,” Kennedy said. “Ted Valentine, one of the best officials in the business, told him he can’t control the fans from saying something but you can’t talk to them. That’s what happened there.”
Henderson gave the Rebels (6-0) the lead for good at 69-68 on a drive with 5:36 to play. That was the start of the crucial run for the Rebels.
D.J. Newbill got Penn State within 75-74 with a vicious dunk on the break after a Rebels’ turnover, but Henderson made three free throws with 1:14 left to make it a four-point lead.
“When a 3-point shooter gets fouled, it switches momentum,” Kennedy said. “Such a huge play. Marshall has huge elevation and singlehandedly he has been fouled taking a 3 more than all the players I’ve coached combined. He gets it at least once a game.”
Said Penn State coach Patrick Chambers: “It was a tough play, a critical play but one the ref has to call. But when you start out the way we did, sleepwalking, we didn’t deserve to win.”
Newbill had 23 points to lead Penn State (6-2), which had won five in a row. Ross Travis added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Nittany Lions.
Ole Miss beat Georgia Tech 77-67 in the semifinals on Friday. St. John’s beat Tech 69-58 inSaturday’s third-place game.