COLUMN: Improved Formula

Stefan Moody isn’t Marshall Henderson. He’s better.

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Ole Miss is 19-8 overall and 10-4 in Southeastern Conference play following a 59-57 win over Tennessee Saturday night. Moody led the Rebels in scoring for the second game in a row, totaling 22 points on 7 of 14 shooting. He made 6 of 11 3-point attempts, while also notching six steals, four rebounds and two assists.

“I think he’s locked in now,” head coach Andy Kennedy said. “I think he’s embraced this leadership role. I think he likes you guys talking about him. I think he likes the attention, and he knows if he makes more he’ll get some more attention. We’re all for him making some more.”

Sound familiar?

Make no mistake, Henderson brought Ole Miss basketball back to relevancy in carrying the Rebels to the NCAA tournament in 2012-13. It was because of Henderson, both on and off the court, that Ole Miss was front and center on a national stage for the first time in a decade.

He’s one of the best players in school history and, without question, one of the most important. Like Eddie Murphy saving Saturday Night Live, Henderson, an All-SEC selection in each of his two seasons, was the right player at the right time. He sparked an Ole Miss revival of sorts, nearly carrying the Rebels to the Sweet 16.

But Moody is better.

I know, I know. Comparisons are silly and serve no real purpose. But that’s the point, if you think about it. There is no comparison, and this isn’t meant to in any way diminish Henderson’s contributions and accomplishments.

However, Moody and Henderson are worlds apart as far as ability. Their only obvious similarities is they both shoot a lot a 3s. Kennedy found his NCAA tournament formula with Henderson and improved upon it.

“If you don’t love what you do,” Moody, who has scored double-digit points in 23 of 27 games, asked postgame, “then why are you doing it? I love what I do. I love every minute of it.”

Kennedy has, in a sense, shoehorned Moody into his current role, and the reasoning was simple enough.

At the beginning of the year, Moody and point guard Jarvis Summers were struggling to co-exist. Not for a lack of effort or willingness, mind you, but their styles of play didn’t complement each other all that well as two ball-dominant guards who set and control offense.

Kennedy made a change. He shifted Moody off the ball more and ran him off screens. Moody’s in-game activity would be more running the baseline than driving to the basket. Moody accepted. But not only that, he’s since added to it, and what we’re seeing now is Marshall Henderson 2.0. Only this Henderson can dribble, drive, defend and create for himself.

If Henderson showed the way, Moody is setting the path on fire.

“I don’t really think about it as just me being the go-to guy,” Moody said after he dropped 29 points at Mississippi State on Thursday. “I feel my team believes in me, trusts in me to knock down shots. That’s what I do.”

Ole Miss trailed 41-33 midway through the second half against Tennessee. The Rebels responded with a 19-6 run thanks mostly to Moody, who scored 12 in a scoring display unlike few seen in Tad Smith Coliseum.

After a made 3, Moody didn’t say much. He didn’t throw up a “landshark” fin atop his head or make any kind of defiant gesture at the crowd of 8,630 fans in attendance.

But he did pop his jersey. A nice callback, even if Moody didn't know it.

“That’s just the maturity of our team,” junior guard Stefan Moody said. “Finding a way to win.”

Sure seems like a go-to guy. Marshall Henderson says hello.

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