And It's Over

ATLANTA, Ga. - Marshall Henderson pulled up, squared his shoulders and found the rim.

He had been here before. He was comfortable here. Behind the 3-point line, the imaginary path of ball to basket, a path only shooters see, in front of him.

He shot. He missed. The same result he got 14 other times Friday night as No. 6 seed Ole Miss was eliminated from the SEC tournament with a 75-73 loss to No. 3 seed Georgia.

"I just didn't have it," Henderson said. "It's never what the other team's doing. It's whether or not I make it."

Eight seconds were left in the game. Henderson fouled Marcus Thornton, who made 1 of 2 free throws. Ole Miss had one last chance to win, two seconds showing on the clock.

Marshall Henderson
Associated Press

Martavious Newby, who received the in-bound, passed to Jarvis Summers, who scored 26 points in defeat, for the final prayer. Henderson wanted the ball. He called for the ball. Newby, because of what the defense gave him, made the read he was coached and drilled to make.

"Marshall really wanted this season," Newby said. "He wanted the ball, too, at the end. They were all on him, so I had to go to the second option. I'm sure he wanted to take the last shot of his career.

"It hit him real bad to see us lose like this."

Henderson, seemingly untouchable not even a year ago, could only watch. He was helpless. And when the shot fell short, an always-emotional player began to cry. The end had arrived, so hard as he had fought against it.

Ole Miss, barring a bid to the National Invitation Tournament on Sunday, closed out its season with a 19-14 overall record.

"I have so many thoughts running through my head about everything it took to get to here," Henderson, fighting through more tears postgame, said. "Then to go out like that, it's crushing in my heart because I want it so bad for everyone."

His final line: Nineteen points on 5 of 21 shooting, including 2 of 16 from 3. In what could very well be his last three games at Ole Miss, he shot 17 of 61 from the field, good for 27.9 percent, and 11 of 48 from 3, a shade under 23 percent.

"I take all this," he said. "I'll take the blame for all that. That's why it hurts."

Sports are strange. They carry more weight than they should, despite the fact we, as sports fans, can't really quantify - in the grand scheme of things - their true significance. Wins matter. Losses matter. But in the end, do they really?

For Henderson, flawed as he is, basketball, his sport, is everything. What's next is the hard part. Because basketball is no sure thing for him anymore. The structure Ole Miss provided him is gone.

He could very well end up overseas. Or in the NBA developmental league. Gunners always seem to find a way onto a roster somewhere, and Henderson was one of the most prolific of his kind in college basketball history.

"Go back to the hotel and go to sleep first," Henderson said, when asked of what his future holds. "And then wake up and go back to Oxford and try and finish up this degree. Be done in May. Get to walk.

"I never thought that was going to be that important, but it's getting a little closer. It's kind of like the season; when it gets a little closer to the end, you start to realize, ‘Oh, now I want to get something done.'"

A handful of Georgia fans sat behind press row Friday night, their only goal to yell at Henderson from tipoff to final buzzer. The night before, an Ole Miss win over Mississippi State, Henderson had brought Marshall Madness back. He pounded the scorer's table after a big play. He threw up his hands as guns after a make or two.

Marshall Henderson
Associated Press

"Marshall, you're a bum!" one Georgia fan yelled.

"Marshall, you're not making it to the NBA!" yelled another.

On and on it went. Henderson created this monster a year ago with his on and off-the-court antics. Still, the lengths opposing fans went this season to hate him were pretty incredible. The loudest cheers of the night, for example, came when he airballed a 3.

Henderson never acknowledged them. Whether he's grown or not is for others to decide. I don't know if he's more mature, and I surely don't pretend to know.

What I do know is he cared.

He's still as colorful as ever, as eccentric as ever, albeit more contained. And yet, he's talking about a degree, unheard of a year ago, when he led Ole Miss to the NCAA tournament.

"He's a terrific player," Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. "He's really matured as a person and as a competitor, but he's got a really quick trigger. You have to give him great attention."

"Just a competitor," Summers said of Henderson. "One of the best teammates I've ever played with. His passion, it's just unbelievable. He's just a winner."

Maybe that's how he'll be remembered.

OM Spirit Top Stories