By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It’s getting harder for Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson to fly under the radar as SEC teams are getting dialed in on exactly how important Henderson is to the Rebels.
Perhaps no team understands that more than Tennessee after Henderson dropped 32 points on the Vols as Ole Miss won by 18 to open SEC play in Knoxville.
The Vols’ stated mission for tonight’s rematch is two-fold: Win the game and stop – or reduce – Henderson’s talking and antics.
Tipoff is 6 p.m., at Tad Smith Coliseum where Ole Miss officials expect a third-straight sellout.
The Rebels (15-2, 4-0 SEC) have won seven straight and entered the AP Top 25 earlier this week at No. 23.
Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes offered a physical metaphor for how to deal with Henderson.
“You can punch him right in the mouth by stopping him from scoring,” Stokes told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press earlier this week. “I feel like if we just stop him from scoring, he won’t talk.”
The Vols (9-7, 1-3) and three other SEC teams haven’t stopped Henderson yet. He’s averaging 21.3 points against the league.
While shooting just 29.2 percent from 3-point range in conference games, Henderson has still managed to hit big shots at critical times.
He’s also scored in different ways – like going 25 for 29 from the free throw line in SEC play – and has shown improved shot selection. He only scored 11 against Missouri but with the inside game working attempted only 11 field goals, his fewest attempts in an SEC game.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy isn’t bothered by Henderson’s personality. In fact, he encourages it.
“We want to make sure that’s channeled in the right direction, but we certainly don’t want to do anything to temper that,” he said.
Surprising as it may seem now, Henderson did not arrive on the Ole Miss campus talking about his game.
“He was quiet. I was like, ‘He was juco player of the year? I could be that then.’ Then he started lighting it up,” sophomore forward Aaron Jones said.
When Henderson broke out with his shot he broke out with his personality, too.
“If you know Marshall like we know him, he’s a fun guy to be around, but if I’m playing against him, I’d hate Marshall. He talks so much. If he misses a shot, he’s still talking like he made it. It just makes you want to fight him sometimes,” Jones said.