FAYETTEVILLE — There’s only one place Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy doesn’t allow guard Marshall Henderson to shoot the basketball.
It’s when the junior is sitting next to him on the Ole Miss sideline.
“I tell him when he’s sitting on the bench he’s not allowed to shoot,” Kennedy said.
Henderson hasn’t been there very often this season, which is good for the Rebels.
The former Utah and Texas Tech player enters Saturday’s game against the Razorbacks (11-5, 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference) averaging 19.1 points a game to lead the league in scoring. His performance has been a big reason Ole Miss (14-2, 3-0 in SEC) carries a six-game win streak into today’s game and has emerged as one of the conference’s legitimate candidates for an NCAA Tournament berth.
He’s also capable of giving Arkansas fits as the Razorbacks try to extend their SEC win streak to three games. So coach Mike Anderson said keeping Henderson — who is averaging 23 points in three conference games — in check will be one of the keys to grabbing a coveted road win in Tad Smith Coliseum.
“When he steps in the gym, man, he can shoot the basketball,” Anderson said. “He can really put it in the hole and I think he has really added a dimension to their basketball team and plays with a lot of confidence.”
Henderson was regarded as scorer when he landed at Ole Miss, which became his fourth school in four years during the offseason.
The Texas native started his collegiate career at Utah, finishing second on the team in scoring (11 points a game) as a freshman in 2009-10. Henderson transferred to Texas Tech after the season and sat out because of transfer rules in 2010-11, but never played for the program after leaving following coach Pat Knight’s dismissal.
So Henderson moved on to South Plains College and averaged 19.6 points a game last season, leading his team to a 36-0 record and the junior college national title.
His impact has been evident at Ole Miss, which hasn’t played in the NCAA Tournament during Kennedy’s first six seasons. The Rebels can improve to 4-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1936-37 with a win against the Razorbacks.
“There’s a lot of things I do worry about, but I don’t worry about whether or not Marshall is going to be ready to play in a game or in practice,” Kennedy said. “Now, his focus, that’s another question. But he brings great energy and he’s a competitor.”
It was evident during Tuesday night’s 89-79 overtime win at Vanderbilt.
Marshall scored 26 points in the victory. His biggest bucket was a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of regulation. Vanderbilt had just gone ahead with a three-pointer of its own with 3.2 seconds left, but Henderson responded with the game-tying bucket after pulling up right after crossing midcourt.
Anderson called it a “remarkable” shot Thursday.
“It shows there are guys that they want to make that play,” Anderson said. “They want to be the guy to make that shot. He shot it without even hesitating about it. He took the ball out and came right at Vanderbilt.
“Those are the shots that help you really have special seasons.”
Anderson said Arkansas, which struggled to guard Auburn’s Frankie Sullivan in the second half and overtimes on Wednesday night, will have to do a better job of playing perimeter defense. Sullivan finished with 26 points, making five 3-pointers.
Henderson ranks sixth in the nation and leads the SEC in three-pointers made a game (3.8). But Kennedy said his impact is felt even when he’s not shooting and scoring.
“Against Missouri we run some action where we kind of put him on the strong side with (forward Murphy) Holloway and Murph ends up scoring 22,” Kennedy said. “A lot of those were simply based on some spacing things that Marshall brings because you can’t help off of him. He’s a guy that can shoot it up to 25, 26 feet. He’s making around four 3s a game. Not only does he bring the ability to make one, but he brings the ability to allow you to get better spacing offensively.”
It’s a challenge Arkansas, which also has had trouble slowing active big men throughout the season, knows it must be prepared for today.
The Razorbacks are searching for a rare win against an Ole Miss program that has won six of the past seven meetings in the series. Holloway recorded 16 points and 16 rebounds, while forward Reginald Buckner added 15 rebounds in leading Ole Miss to a 77-75 win in Bud Walton Arena the last time the teams met.
Both are looking for more success against the Razorbacks today.
And they’re aided by the addition of the SEC’s leading scorer this time.
“He’s a guy that can knock it down from 30, 40 feet and they look for him to score,” Anderson said of Henderson. “That’s why I say, sometimes it’s like they throw it up there and just go get it with the athletes they’ve got (in the post). They’ve got some tremendous athletes, so we’ve got to really put bodies on people, because I think they’re one of the more athletic teams in our league. …
“They’re going to be riled up and they’ll be ready for us.”
Arkansas (11-5) at Ole Miss (14-2)
• When: 12:47 p.m. today
• Where: Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Miss.
• TV/Radio: SEC Network (KATV-7)/KABZ-FM 103.7
• SEC records: Arkansas 2-1, Ole Miss 3-0
• Series: Arkansas leads 41-29; last meeting Ole Miss 77, Arkansas 75 on Feb. 28