Despite poor shooting early on, Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson helped the Rebels to an upset win over Wisconsin. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Marshall Henderson had missed shot after shot.
But Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy wasn’t concerned that his colorful star shooting guard had only made 1 of his 11 field goal attempts during the first half of Friday’s second-round game against No. 4 seeded.
With his team only down three at the half, Kennedy emphasized during that even more plays would be run to get shots for Henderson.
Henderson sat silently. But just as he was about to lead his teammates onto the court for the second half, he paused.
“I’m fixing to make these shots,” Henderson said.
Henderson did just that, scoring 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to propel Ole Miss to a 57-46 upset of Wisconsin, but did so in such an emotional, chest-thumping manner that makes him perhaps this NCAA tournament’s most polarizing player.
“Marshall Mania affects the psyche of the other team,” Kennedy said. “How can you avoid it? Marshall this, Marshall that. For us that’s another day at the office.”
Just like Henderson’s poor shooting early. A notoriously slow starter, he continued to misfire in Pop-A-Shot fashion and his face reflected his frustration.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. He scowled. He puffed his cheeks. “I was just waiting for that first three to go down,” Henderson said.
And once it finally did with 11:25 remaining to cut Wisconsin’s lead to three, Henderson’s swagger was back. So much that after he missed a three on the next possession, he fired again from (about 25 feet) behind the arch and made it, tying the game at 36.
Henderson leered at the Ole Miss fans as he strolled back down court. He knew Wisconsin was dead and in the final minute, he beat his chest wildly after a pair of free throws.
Marshall had come alive and transformed into something, but you couldn’t put a finger on it. In an interview after the game, Henderson couldn’t describe it either.
“I told you all along Coach Kennedy has told me I’ve got to be, what is it?” Henderson said before being interrupted by Kennedy.
“Serial killer, but we won’t say that in this environment,” Kennedy said, drawing laughter.
But Henderson had plenty to say about Wisconsin’s much-hyped physical defense in his typical cocky style.
“Their defense wasn’t what everyone said,” said Marshall, who finished 6-of-21 from the field, including 3-for 12 on 3s. “I just missed shots.”
After the game, Henderson jumped up and down on the court in front of the Ole Miss fans as if he were doing jumping jacks. He had lived to shoot in another game.
But as Henderson ran back through the tunnel to the locker room, he pointed at waiting fourth-seeded Kansas State, who he thought would be his team’s next opponent until the Wildcats were stunned 63-61 by No. 13 La Salle.