Time to Grind

Marshall Henderson gave a one-sentence postgame interview following Ole Miss' season-saving, 84-74 win over Georgia on Saturday.

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By Monday, head coach Andy Kennedy was again answering questions about his, shall we say, spirited junior guard, who has become known as much for his off-the-court theatrics as his deadly precision from 3-point range.

Henderson scored 25 points against the Bulldogs, including 14 straight points in the final 3:36 of regulation to force overtime. Ole Miss easily handled Georgia in the extra period, outscoring the Bulldogs 14-4, to move to 19-6 overall and 8-4 in Southeastern Conference games.

Henderson, donning a hoodie and with his headphones clinging to his neck, bounced into the press room afterwards and announced to the handful of reporters gathered at door, "If it's all the same, it's Saturday night. I'm out."

And off he went, bouncing down the hall as an Ole Miss sports information director followed behind.

Kennedy has answered his share of Henderson-related questions this season. Henderson, the SEC's leading scorer, drew national attention for his postgame interaction with the Auburn student section weeks ago, as well as his constant chirping in a win at Vanderbilt in mid-January.

So, with the regular season winding down and March around the corner, Kennedy only chuckles when another Henderson question rolls in. It is what it is, as cliché as that sounds.

Marshall Henderson
Bruce Newman

In Henderson, Kennedy, who has said Henderson is a lot like he was during his playing career, sees a player finding fun in the game.

"Marshall and I have constant dialogue about trying to make good decisions," he said Monday during his some eight-minute conference call with reporters. "It was all in fun (on Saturday). I wasn't in there when he came in and made his one sentence, the King has left the building, or whatever he said.

"He just has fun with lot of things; sometimes I'm envious of his nature. He seems to be enjoying it a lot more than I am."

Kennedy and his team weren't having much fun the last two weeks. Prior to the win against Georgia, the Rebels had lost four of their last five, including a disappointing two-point loss at Texas A&M the previous Wednesday.

Still, despite their struggles, the Rebels were/are considered an NCAA tournament team by Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com and Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com. But they have to keep stacking wins, with a trip to South Carolina up next.

"I know that's going to be a tremendous challenge, because (South Carolina head coach) Frank (Martin) is a tremendous basketball coach, and his teams are always going to be fundamentally sound. Life is never easy on the road in SEC play. We've got to make sure we take the right approach."

South Carolina, like most of the SEC, has struggled this season. The Gamecocks are tied for last in the SEC, sitting at 12-13 overall and 2-10 in the league.

In its remaining six games, Ole Miss will face only two top-100 opponents in Alabama and Texas A&M. The next-best opponent is LSU, at 6-6 in the SEC and 15-8 overall. The Rebels will trip to Baton Rouge to round out the regular season.

Basically, there are landmines everywhere. The Rebels have already beaten Auburn once this season. They'll get the Tigers again, this time at home, on Saturday. The return game against Texas A&M follows four days later, then a road trip to Mississippi State. Their last regular-season home game is vs. Alabama March 5.

For a struggling team, the one-game-at-a-time approach is the only approach worth taking, according to Kennedy.

"Everybody is talking about March Madness and bubble and who's in and who's out," Kennedy said. "There's probably only a handful of teams that if they didn't win another game would get into the tournament.

Marshall Henderson
Bruce Newman

"Florida's probably one of those, but there are only a handful of those. Everybody else that has a shot still has to win basketball games. Just speaking from personal experience, our focus is just on trying to win games. We know we have six remaining on our schedule, plus one in the SEC tournament. We have seven opportunities, and what we do with those seven opportunities will determine what happens next. That could be said for a number of teams throughout the course of the country. Everybody's in that grind mode where you're just trying to grind out wins."

Bring on the Marshall Henderson questions. Kennedy will keep on laughing, so long as Ole Miss is getting wins, inching ever so close to the NCAA tournament, where the Rebels haven't been in a decade.

"Really, the biggest thrill for us against Georgia was winning the game, having lost four of five. Getting back home, we needed to protect our home floor," he said. "I was proud that our guys found enough fight down the stretch to make that happen. To get to 8-4 in the league was really where my focus was. Now it's (on) trying to win No. 9."

And not on the latest Marshall Henderson "controversy."

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