Harris: Ole Miss’ Henderson makes mark

BY MATTHEW HARRIS

Advocate sportswriter

The charm attached to Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson’s tongue-wagging, gum-flapping and indiscriminate long-range firing persona is less endearing and more chafing these days.

But it sure was fun while it lasted.

We loved his 35-foot 3-pointer to force overtime in a victory at Vanderbilt.

We swooned over his jawing at Auburn students, inducing middle fingers from frat boys and expletives from grandfathers.

We chuckled in amusement as he kept hoisting up a Southeastern Conference-leading 327 shots from behind the arc even if he’d missed a string of them.

You see, he was our lovable ball hog. Shot selection be damned.

“If I was to describe him as a gun, it would be automatic,” LSU guard Charles Carmouche said Thursday. “He has no safety.”

The show arrives Saturday against LSU at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in the Tigers’ season finale.

You just can’t have any down time,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “When you talk about guarding or defending someone like him, that’s ideally the way that you have to play. He just has no limitations on what he will do or where he will do it from, so you have to really guard against that.”

In those halcyon days, the Rebels were racing to six consecutive SEC victories, and appearing as insurgents bent on usurping Florida’s throne, intent on claiming their first NCAA tournament bid in coach Andy Kennedy’s seven-year tenure.

Remember the time Marshall dropped 25 points on Georgia in an 84-74 victory Feb. 16 and offered up this tidbit to scribes?

“If it’s all the same,” Henderson said. “It’s Saturday night. I’m out.”

He then left the room.

“Sometimes, I’m envious of his nature,” Kennedy said. “He seems to be enjoying it a lot more than I am.”

Well, Marshall, we’ll always have The Plains.

Six weeks later, Ole Miss has tumbled. The Rebels are 5-6 over that stretch, including sub-200 RPI losses to South Carolina (No. 204) and Mississippi State (No. 226) to fall out of the March Madness brew that would be ably stirred by Henderson.

In those losses, the junior-college transfer, who also had stops at Texas Tech and Utah, is just 19 of 67 behind the 3-point line. Strip out his seven 3s against Florida, and his accuracy slumps to 21.4 percent. Against Mississippi State, Henderson launched 18 attempts — only three fewerthan the Bulldogs.

“For him, there’s no such thing as a bad shot or tough shot,” said Carmouche, who will likely draw the defensive assisngment. “He shoots it any kind of way. You throw three people in his face, he’s going to fire. It’s just going to be a tough task.”

Unfortunately, Ole Miss has learned Henderson can shoot it out of games as often as he can drag it back into contention. With its NCAA tourney hopes flagging, now would be the ideal stretch for Henderson revive nostalgia.

Carmouche expects nothing less.

“He has no conscience,” Carmouche said.