Primer: Ole Miss - MTSU

Ole Miss (6-2) hosts Middle Tennessee State (7-2) today at 4 p.m. After winning their first six games of the season, the Rebels are looking to snap a two-game losing streak.

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Game: Ole Miss - Middle Tennessee State
Date: Dec. 14, 4 p.m.
Location: Oxford, Miss.
TV/Radio: CSS/Ole Miss Radio Network

The Lede:

Ole Miss is 6-2 on the year following consecutive losses to Kansas State and Oregon. The loss to the No. 15-ranked Ducks snapped a 23-game home court non-conference winning streak. Senior guard Marshall Henderson broke his own school record with 10 3-pointers en route to a career-high 39 points in the loss. His 23 3-point attempts were also a school record, which was just one shy of the SEC record. He's hit a 3-pointer in every game of his Ole Miss career.

Ole Miss ranks first in the SEC, and fourth in the nation, averaging 8.0 blocks per game and has blocked 59 shots over the last seven games. Junior F Aaron Jones ranks third in the league averaging 2.9 blocked shots per game, while junior C Demarco Cox is eighth averaging 1.3 blocked shots per game.

Scouting Middle Tennessee State:

Marshall Henderson
Associated Press

Middle Tennessee is 7-2 on the young season after earning a NCAA Tournament at-large bid last year. The Blue Raiders have knocked off Akron, Arkansas-Little Rock, Fisk, Murray State, North Florida, Southern and South Alabama this season with losses to Belmont and at Florida. Senior Shawn Jones leads MTSU averaging 14.2 points per game and pulling down 7.6 rebounds per game. Middle Tennessee is shooting 48.2 percent from the floor this season and limiting opponents to just 39.5 percent from the field.

This will be the eighth meeting between Middle Tennessee State and Ole Miss. MTSU holds a 4-3 advantage in the all-time series, including four straight wins. The Blue Raiders are 1-1 in games played in Oxford, the last meeting a 61-53 MTSU win Dec. 12, 1977. Middle Tennessee picked up a 65-62 victory against Ole Miss Dec. 8, 2012 inside the Murphy Center as current Blue Raiders Jones and Kerry Hammonds II tallied seven points each.

The Rundown:

Marshall Henderson started all but three games last season, finishing as the SEC leader in scoring.

So far in 2013-14, he's 0 for 8.

Henderson sat out Ole Miss' season-opening win over Troy due to suspension. He's come off the bench in the next seven games, and his 24.9 minutes per outing are good for only fourth on the team.

Despite the role change, Henderson has attempted 31 more shots than his next-closest teammate, Jarvis Summers. And Henderson leads all players in scoring with 18.3 points following his 39-point outburst in a 115-105 loss to then-No. 13 Oregon on Sunday.

"I haven't really cared like I thought I would," Henderson said of coming off the bench. "My favorite players are (New York Knicks guard) J.R. Smith and (Los Angeles Clippers guard) Jamal Crawford. So I just take that mentality into it. Sixth Man of the Year? That's an award I don't have."

"Well we had won six in a row," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We've lost two in a row, so we're certainly thinking about different ways in which to stimulate certain guys, and he's certainly still in the mix. A lot of it is based on matchups and how to start the game and how to be as aggressive as you want to be defensively with certain lineups. We're still tinkering with that moving forward."

Marshall Henderson
USA TODAY images

Summers led Ole Miss in scoring in the first seven games. Henderson leapfrogged the junior after his scoring barrage against Oregon, when he attempted a school-record 23 3s, making 10, another school record. In all, he attempted 27 shots. Twenty-seven. And he didn't even start.

Kennedy said there's no real difference in Henderson's approach whether he starts the game or comes off the bench.

"His minutes are a little bit down, but a lot of that was just based on me trying to integrate him back into what we're doing and I've been displeased with some things," Kennedy said. "As a result, the only way you can teach a guy is to sit him. But I don't know if it's made any difference in the way he approaches the game, which can be good or bad depending on your perspective.

"He's come out and done the things we all expect him to do offensively. Defensively we're still certainly a work in progress."

No matter his role, Henderson has plenty of room for improvement.

He's shooting 37 percent from 3 on the year, a slight bump up from his junior season, when he made 35 percent. The issue so far for Henderson is in his 2-point shots. He's made only 8 of 27, 29.6 percent.

"His three-point percentage is better," Kennedy said. "He's shooting I guess close to 37 percent. My math is not great, but that equates to around 55, 56 percent from the field. Against Oregon I believe he was 10 for 23, which is 44 percent, which equates to 66 percent. So even though he is a volume guy, if you look at it objectively, his numbers reflect that. Time and score is still important to me, and I think he is searching as he always has done and I'm trying to get him to slow down. I haven't been as successful as I would hope over his first 40-odd games at Ole Miss. Hopefully his last 20 or so will get the message sent.

"It's two-point percentage. He's not scoring at the rate he should, and his free-throw percentage. He's a guy that's shooting in the mid-70s and I'm spoiled, I think he should be in the 90s."

Spirit's Pick:

Ole Miss

Ole Miss Logo
Ole Miss suffered two losses in the span of three days. But those losses couldn't have been any more different. The first was a plodding, offensively-challenged affair at Kansas State. The Rebels played well enough defensively, but Henderson struggled from the floor, shooting his team out of the game on 2 of 13 from 3. Oregon turned into a shootout, and the Rebels had their chances, only to fall in overtime. They played their worst defensively of the year. Can they put it all together Saturday? Now would be as good a time as any. The schedule doesn't get any easier, and a win over MTSU, an NCAA tournament team last season, would be a nice addition to Ole Miss' way-too-early postseason resume.

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