Marshall Henderson, the gunner, can only be caged for so long.
He plays basketball to shoot. Time and situation, high or low probability, are of little consequence when he sets to fire, which takes a matter of mere seconds. He is who he is.
“Any shot Marshall takes up, I feel like it’s going in,” junior guard Jarvis Summers said.
Case in point: Ole Miss’ 72-63 win over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.
The Rebels (7-2) trailed 56-50 midway through the second half. But Summers, who Kennedy justly declared as the team’s Most Valuable Player through nine games, made four points to pull his team within two.
Middle Tennessee (7-3) guard Neiko Hunter made two free throws, but Ladarius White responded with a layup. For the most part, Henderson had worked well within the team concept, looking for others and facilitating offense by driving to the rim.
But he had played sidekick for too long.
Last year, when he led the SEC in scoring, Henderson was Ole Miss’ go-to shooter in crunch time. He still is. With 5:33 to go, he caught a White pass and shot for 3. Good. Ole Miss led 61-60. The Rebels never trailed again.
“He puts the work in, and we’re comfortable with him shooting shots,” Summers said. “He did a lot for us last year and he’s still doing it. Everybody’s comfortable with what he does.”
Thirty seconds shown on the shot clock. Ole Miss was clinging to a three-point lead. An Ole Miss offensive possession gone wrong resulted in one of those fade-away, no-way-he-makes-that Henderson 3s.
He pumped his fist, put his “layup gang” guns in their holsters, and returned to the Ole Miss bench. He can only be caged for so long. The gunner lives to shoot.
“Those are hard to live with when they don’t go in,” Kennedy said of the make. “But I think you realize by now I understand there’s give and take. You have to allow him to have the freedom in those moments. He did a good job of playing within the team concept.
“It was something late in the shot clock. They don’t think he’s even going to shoot it, and he stepped up and knocked it down.”
There will be games when Kennedy bemoans his star guard’s shot selection. Saturday, though, was another in what has become a long line of memorable Marshall Henderson moments.
He finished with 15 points on 4 of 11 shooting, including 4 of 9 from 3. This after his career-high, 39-point outburst in a loss to Oregon earlier this week. He attempted 27 shots (!) off the bench.
Because shooting, and shooting a lot, is what he does, even if Saturday was more controlled. Eleven shots? Chump change. Then he takes a shot that only looks good when it goes in, reminding everyone who he is.
Marshall Henderson, gunner.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Kennedy said. “For him to take 11 shots … he took eight in two minutes against Oregon. I do think we’re making progress with him understanding playing within the flow of the team.”
Until next time.
— Ben Garrett, OMSpirit.com