Gators preparing for league's leading scorer

The antics and scoring ability of Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson have made him one of the most talked about college basketball players this season. There's no question he can score. The junior guard is averaging 19.3 points per game and isn't afraid to shoot once he crosses the half court line. It's his antics that have stolen the headlines. No. 4 Florida is hoping to slow him on Saturday.

The leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference will be the center of attention at 7 p.m. in the O'Connell Center Saturday. Marshall Henderson has turned into a dynamic shooter in the SEC this season in his first year at No. 16 Ole Miss, shooting 34.9% from behind the three-point line.

And he'll hoist up plenty of three-pointers. Henderson has taken 218 three-pointers this season, which is 94 more than Kenny Boynton, who leads Florida with 124 three-point attempts.

When he crosses half court, the Gators will start to defend him.

"You've got to stay up on him and always be ready," Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "Keep your hand over the ball."

It's Wilbekin that will likely draw the responsibility of guarding Henderson. He's used to taking on premier players so far this year. Wilbekin allowed just four points to Texas A&M guard Elston Turner the game after he scored 40 points at Kentucky. One game later, Wilbekin slowed down preseason SEC player of the year Phil Pressey and forced him to turn the ball over ten times.

His suffocating defense is what makes the Florida defense work. The Gators have the second best scoring defense in the country with 50.4 points allowed per game. On the other end of the floor, Ole Miss brings the fifth-best scoring offense to Gainesville, averaging 80 points per game.

It all starts with Henderson, and that's where a majority of Florida's defensive preparation has been focused.

"He has great feet in coming off screens," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "He can come off screens and get them set. He has really good speed to come off screens. He has the ability to get himself squared up quickly. He can make tough shots, challenged shots. He gets to the free throw line quite a bit. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor. He's all around a very good offensive player."

Henderson has a fiery personality

Henderson's scoring ability has received recognition, but his lively personality and antics on the court have also drawn some attention. There's no doubting Henderson's competitiveness. The junior guard is fiery, but Ole Miss has tried to work with him to keep that fire from getting the best of him.

The Florida players and coaches have downplayed any attention spent on talking to the team about Henderson's antics.

"I look at it more of what we have to do in his talent level, ability and what he brings to their team," Donovan said. "Our guys need to get prepared for the game and be ready to play. We need to know how they utilize him. It's more about getting prepared to play."

Henderson isn't the only threat. Ole Miss boasts a pair of senior forwards in Reginald Buckner (9.7 points/8.0 rebounds) and Murphy Holloway (14.6 points/10.3 rebounds) that can turn it into a physical game. They also help make Ole Miss the 15th best shot blocking team in the country.

They're experienced players that want to be physical in the paint.

"Where Henderson changes their team is they probably haven't had a shooter like that with Holloway and Buckner," Donovan said. "Their spacing on offense is good because you have to account for Henderson and frees up Bucker, frees up Murphy Holloway to drive the ball and make plays. That's a concern."

Added Florida forward Will Yeguete, "It's going to be a physical game. Holloway and Buckner, they have good size. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

Ole Miss is 149th in scoring defense, allowing 65.1 points per game to its opponents. They try to change up defenses to keep the opponent's offense guaessing.

"You're going to see changing defenses," Donovan said. "You'll see 2-2-1, three-quarter court press, 2-3 zone and man-to-man."

Saturday's game against Ole Miss is big in the SEC

Even after losing at home to Kentucky on Tuesday night, Donovan and his team know the challenge that's coming to Gainesville on Wednesday. It'll be Florida's toughest test in the first eight games of conference play. Ole Miss brings a 17-3 record to town plus a 6-1 conference record.

They present multiple challenges, even with their top two reserves—forward Aaron Jones (torn ACL) and guard Nick Williams (foot)— out for the game after suffering injuries against Kentucky.

"There's a reason they were 17-2 going into Kentucky," Donovan said. "They have a lot of answers for a lot of different things. They can rebound the ball, they can get to the free throw line and they have a game changer offensively. They have a low post presence. If they're not shooting well, they can get the ball off the glass. They've got a lot of ways to beat you."

Fightin Gators Top Stories