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Rebs Open SEC Slate With A Win

Ole Miss opened Southeastern Conference play against Auburn without Marshall Henderson, its leading scorer, on Thursday.

Photo courtesy of Joshua McCoy / Ole Miss Athletics
Photo courtesy of Joshua McCoy / Ole Miss Athletics

The Rebels won anyway.
But the final score, a hard-fought, ugly 65-62 win, was far different than the only other game this season without Henderson, who will sit again Saturday at in-state rival Mississippi State due to a three-game suspension announced in October.
No, it wasn’t pretty. Ole Miss was outrebounded for the sixth straight game. The Rebels allowed a 28-point scorer, Chris Denson, and made only 12 of 21 free throws.
Jarvis Summers, often described by head coach Andy Kennedy as team MVP, scored 28 points Nov. 8 in the Rebels’ season-opening win over Troy, the first game with Henderson sidelined. However, Summers struggled against Auburn, totaling 14 points on 6 of 17 shooting.
Again, though, the Rebels (10-4, 1-0 SEC) won anyway. And it was, for the most part, because of everybody else.
“Bottom line, find a way to win,” Kennedy said. “Jarvis has been our MVP from day one this season, and he certainly did not have his best game. He looked a little battle-fatigued. Derrick Millinghaus made some big plays for us.”
Millinghaus scored a team-high 16 points as one of four Rebels in double-digits. Aaron Jones had 12 to go along with his seven rebounds, five steals and five blocks.
His block of a Malcolm Canada layup attempt with 26 seconds remaining in the game helped Ole Miss preserve its four-point lead. He almost had another with 17 seconds to go, but was whistled for a questionable foul call.
“It’s very different without playing with Marshall,” Jones said. “He brings the hypeness to our team and he brings experience. I miss him out there. I miss him.”
Sure. But Jones played pretty well without him.
It was the kind of performance Kennedy, for one, had been calling for from his junior forward. Same for Millinghaus and Ladarius White, for that matter. White finished with 10 points, including two makes in three 3-point attempts, for just his fifth double-digit scoring effort of the year.
Kennedy would obviously prefer to have Henderson in the fold. Still, a game like Thursday, where role players who have struggled to get going are forced to make plays, can only help in the weeks and months to come as Ole Miss chases its second NCAA tournament appearance in two years.
“The only guy on this year’s team that had the same role as last year’s team is Marshall Henderson,” Kennedy said. “Marshall wasn’t in clothes tonight. Everybody else has an expanded role, and with that comes more responsibility. You can’t look around and think ‘Somebody’s going to come bail me out.’ Now you’re the guy. You have to accept that responsibility. But that’s a process.”
Ole Miss next travels to Starkville for a date with Mississippi State. Humphrey Coliseum has been a house of horrors for the Rebels, who last won there in 2009. The Bulldogs are 92-24 all-time at home.
Ole Miss proved for the second time in three months time it can win without Henderson, and if the Rebels are to get to 2-0 in league play, they’ll have to do it with Henderson in street clothes one more time.
“It’d be a big sigh of relief. We do need him. It would let us know we can play without him,” Jones said of what a win in Starkville would mean. “I expect us to go in there and play hard and come out with a win. It’s a big rivalry game. We’ve just got to stay focused and be tough.”
Thursday night was a start.
— Ben Garrett, OMSpirit.com

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