'Marshall Mania'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - He was visibly frustrated, Marshall Henderson shaking his head as shot after shot failed to find the bottom of the net.

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He was struggling on college basketball's biggest stage, the Mecca of this sport, the NCAA tournament. Doubt crept in. The weight of the game, a second round paring with No. 5 seed Wisconsin, was grinding him down.

"Sometimes I sit back and laugh at myself," he would say later. "How does this happen? I've shot like 20 hundred million shots in my day. Now that I make the NCAA tournament, why does this happen?"

With each missed shot, he kept calling back to the night before. Pittsburgh, a No. 8 seed, lost to No. 9 seed Wichita State. Senior guard Tray Woodall struggled mightily in the loss, going 1 of 12 from the field.

He broke down and cried in the postgame press conference.

"The only thing that was running through my head was the Pittsburgh game," Henderson said. "Tray Woodall, he's done so much for that program. Probably his worst game. I felt so bad for him after everything that he had done.

Marshall Henderson
Ole Miss Athletics

"That was kind of going through my head. Man, I'm a fluke."

But Henderson has the trust of his head coach, Andy Kennedy, and his teammates. Even on his bad days, as Thursday afternoon against Wisconsin was, they hold the belief that the time will come when Henderson steps up and makes that one big one.

"I look for him every time," senior forward Murphy Holloway, who had 10 points and nine rebounds against the Badgers, said. "When we need to make a big shot, he's the player I want to go to."

That shot came late in the second half.

No. 12 seed Ole Miss was clinging to a 47-44 lead with 3:09 remaining. At the time, Henderson had missed nine of his 11 3-point attempts, as well as 15 of 19 his field goal attempts.

He could have passed or held the ball. But that's not Marshall Henderson, who rarely, if ever, lacks confidence. March Madness gets its name from such a moment - a moment Henderson couldn't, and wouldn't, pass up.

He pulled up, some 30 feet away from the basket. Up went his shot, a 3. And when it came down, through the net, barely touching the rim, Ole Miss was well on its way to Sunday to play the winner of Kansas State and LaSalle.

Final: Ole Miss 57, Wisconsin 46.

"For us, there's no question, ‘Marshall Mania' affects the psyche of the other team," Kennedy, his team now 27-8 overall and winners of six straight, said. Those 27 wins are tied for the school record for most in a single season.

"How can you avoid it? Marshall this, Marshall that. For us, it's another day at the office. I'm so proud of the fact that this group continues to grind and fight and persevere, which is the name of the game."

Henderson reeled off five more points after the 3, including two free throws that all but iced a game that was pretty much already decided. His final stat line wasn't pretty, Henderson finishing 6 of 21 from the floor, including 3 of 12 from 3. He had 19 points and shot 5 of 10 in the second half.

Marshall Henderson
Ole Miss Athletics

And as the final horn sounded, he raced towards a section filled mostly with Ole Miss fans.

He did Marshall Henderson things, signaling for the fans to get loud, popping his jersey and smiling as he headed toward the locker room.

There would be no Tray Woodall moment for him.

"It feels good to survive and advance," he said. "I'm just glad we won, because I didn't shoot the ball well. I was sitting by Murphy on the bench. If I don't pick this up, it's going to be my fault. I don't want it to be my fault.

"I'm glad I'm going to have a chance to redeem myself on Sunday."

Marshall Madness lives to fight another day.

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