In With The Old

Marshall Henderson is who he is. Caging him, making him into something he's not, seems almost cruel.

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There is no shortage of reasons for Ole Miss quieting its eccentric star in his senior season, and any reason given is perfectly reasonable and justified. His three-game suspension, which ended with the loss to Mississippi State on Saturday, stemmed from his erratic behavior last season, as well as an arrest in the spring.

But Marshall Henderson has to be himself. Not in the sense of making boneheaded moves off-the-court. No, no, no. More of in the bursts of emotion when he plays - the popping of his jersey, his running in those odd, uncontrollable circles the way only Henderson can. He's at his best, colorful self when he's engaged.

He was engaged Wednesday night.

Ole Miss beat LSU in overtime, outscoring the Tigers, 19-5, in the extra frame for a much-needed, 88-74 victory to move to 11-5 overall and 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference.

Henderson scored 25 points on 7 of 16 from the field and 6 of 12 from 3. He was animated, especially in overtime. He bounced around, gesturing to the crowd and encouraging his teammates. Sebastian Saiz was the primary reason why Ole Miss won on Wednesday, I grant you, but Henderson provided the spark Ole Miss missed in Starkville. Or even against Auburn, one in the growing stack of too-close-for-comfort wins.

Because if nothing else, Henderson is the energy source. The continuum transfunctioner. The flux capacitor. So, I say, let the wild rumpus start.

Marshall Henderson
USA TODAY images

"I was like ‘I can't do this anymore.' I can't just be calm," Henderson said. "It's hurting me, which is weird. I can't do it anymore. I'm going back to me because we need it."

Henderson went about his normal routine in his return to the floor. He made ridiculous 3s, with none more impressive than a moon shot falling away where he was fouled (he made the free throw), giving Ole Miss a 62-61 lead with 4:46 to go in the second half.

Of course, he missed his share, too.

He provided moments of admiration and incredible frustration for his head coach, Andy Kennedy, who has long accepted the duality of Marshall Henderson. Because the makes? Oh, the makes. He can live with the 30-plus-foot bricks early in the shot clock if they're later forgiven by the thrilling moments. You know, the ones that have defined Henderson in his two-year Ole Miss career.

An example? His 3 at the top of the key off an Aaron Jones offensive rebound with 2:54 left in overtime. A game-changing, dagger of a shot that came when Saiz missed a free throw.

"That was a huge dagger," Kennedy said. "You know what's sick? I expect them to go in. That's sick. Of course, I'm the one that lets him shoot them all. We expect them to go in."

"Right to me," Henderson said of Jones' tipped rebound. "I think I made it happen in my head somehow. I think I have strong mental powers."

Sure. Why not? He has something, and whatever it is, it provides a boost for his teammates.

The Rebels led 76-69 after that shot. Henderson went nuts, as he should.

And when he went full-on Henderson, reminding Ole Miss fans of the player who last season led the Rebels to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade, of the player who reignited a program, Kennedy didn't say much. The crowd exploded.

Yes, Jarvis Summers has been Ole Miss' MVP his season. But when you get down to it, no matter the arguments against, Marshall Henderson, warts and all, is the face of Ole Miss basketball.

"When you ride with him, now, you've got to ride with him. There's no halfway in. I'm in," Kennedy said.

The old Marshall Henderson is in, too. And as far as Ole Miss is concerned, his arrival couldn't have come at a better time.

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