Road Show

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The taunts were unrelenting. And persistent. And loud.

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"F*** you, Marshall!"

"Maaa-rrr-sss-hhh-aall! Maaa-rrr-sss-hhh-aall!"

References to his checkered past, chanted in unison by the Tennessee student section. A chorus of boos each time he touched the ball. Applause as he fell to the court, clinching his hip in pain, 32 seconds in. Arguably the loudest cheers when he air-balled his first 3-point attempt.

Marshall Henderson caught the worst from Tennessee fans Wednesday night, from pregame warm-ups to when he subbed out with two minutes to go.

First and foremost, they were here to hate him, the heel they've been taught to taunt. Tennessee's 86-70 win was secondary.

"I'm used to it by now," Henderson, who scored a team-leading 26 points, said afterwards. "Some stuff's pretty funny, though. I like kind of listening to it to see what people say. Some people are pretty clever."

"Marshall's pretty good on the road," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "There's nothing that anybody can do or say to him that he has not experienced before."

Henderson created the monster he faces every time he takes his show on the road. And raucous crowds aren't exclusive to Tennessee.

Marshall Henderson winces in pain in the opening seconds of Ole Miss' loss at Tennessee.
USA TODAY images

Coastal Carolina, never known for its basketball prowess, sold out. In November. Western Kentucky saw the largest non-conference crowd in school history pack its coliseum with Ole Miss in town. A few weeks ago, South Carolina, winless in the Southeastern Conference before tonight, also had a sellout.

"It's definitely been different," this year, compared to last, Henderson said. "Everywhere we've gone has been pretty packed. That's what we want, though. We want to be a top-notch team. We've kind of changed things, where when Ole Miss comes to town, people are ready to watch."

Or, more than anything, Marshall Henderson has changed things.

He set college basketball on fire last season, his first at Ole Miss, when he made an SEC record 138 3s en route to being named SEC Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press.

But his on-court antics of popping his jersey and antagonizing opposing fans gained him as much, if not more, notoriety as his on-court play. You knew that already.

It was here, in Thompson-Boling Arena, against these same Tennessee Volunteers, that Henderson scored 32 points in his SEC debut - the most points scored by a Rebel in their first league game since Johnny Neumann scored 39 against Auburn in 1970.

So, no matter how much he's toned down his combustible personality, no matter the blinders he wears when fans go after him, how he refuses to react much anymore, they remember Marshall Henderson.

"I like that, though," Henderson said. "It takes a lot of attention off of other guys on the team. I think that's probably a good thing; they can kind of go through the motions, don't have to worry about anything else.

"I can handle it. It's fine. It's going to happen."

Behind the Ole Miss bench, the final seconds ticking off the first loss for the Rebels in five games, sat Henderson's mother, Shellie. Shellie is kind and approachable and the biggest Marshall Henderson fan there is.

She met with him briefly following what was a trying game for his team, one that saw Ole Miss fall to 14-6 overall and 5-2 in the SEC. The Rebels never led, getting as close as five points.

Henderson scored a team-high 26 points in the loss.
USA TODAY images

Mother and son being, well, mother and son. They smiled and laughed. Marshall took a photo or two with a handful of Tennessee fans who hung around as the custodial crew made their rounds through the rows and rows of once-filled seats.

She's sat through Marshall being mocked time and again. Wednesday wasn't new. However, such nights are never fun, even if they've become unavoidable.

"It does bother me," she said. "It's not anything that I haven't heard before, so I'm used to hearing it. But still, when it's somebody you love and somebody you want to defend, my mama bear instincts come out and I want to take them all on."

One versus 100. Sound familiar?

Different in his senior season, Henderson isn't really reacting. His only real show of emotion followed a made 3 to cap a 10-0 Ole Miss run to cut the Tennessee lead to 48-42 early in the second half. The Volunteers quickly extended their lead to 63-49 with a 15-7 spurt.

He's but a shell of what he was personality-wise a year ago. No matter. He gets the same treatment as the cartoonish character opposing fans have cast him to play, even if he isn't taking the bait.

"I don't think he gives two thoughts to it," Shellie said of the grief Marshall catches on the road. "He just hears it and lets it roll off his back and goes on."

Such is the approach he has to take to get through the vitriolic crowds and fans who want nothing more than to see him fail. Ole Miss hits the road again in six days. Next up? Kentucky. Big Blue Nation.

Fine by Henderson. He handled Knoxville, the latest in a trend. What's one more?

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