All anyone is going to talk about after Ole Miss lost to Kentucky 87-74 on Tuesday night is how poorly Marshall Henderson played.
He was 5-19 from the floor and 2-11 from three. He took some deep, contested threes as well as some questionable, off-balance looks from inside the arc. After missing a couple of open looks in the first few minutes of the game, Kentucky was able to contest every shot that Henderson released by switching all of the screens set for him.
Henderson is going to get plenty of criticism after this game. Considering the flamboyant histrionics and the reputation that he developed thanks to a couple of twitpics and an unforgettable GIF, he had quite a bit of hype and expectation entering this game. He clearly failed to live up to those expectations. Some of it is because he had an off-night, but much of the credit has to be given to Kentucky’s defense. They knew they had the nation’s best shotblocker at the rim. They knew they could afford to gamble on Henderson, taking him out of the game and daring the rest of the Ole Miss roster to beat them.
And it worked.
Murphy Holloway struggled to score, Reginald Buckner couldn’t finish around the rim and Jarvis Summers matched Henderson with a 5-19 shooting time. If it wasn’t for the best game of Ladarius White’s career, the Rebels would have been blown out.
That said, I think the criticism of Henderson is too much. For starters, those that are calling him out for poor shot selection need to go back to watching GIFs and Sportscenter highlights. This is how Henderson plays. He takes some dumb shots and he fires away on some questionable threes because he can make dumb shots and questionable threes. He’s got range, and he’s not afraid to flaunt it.
In the second half of the game, however, Henderson stopped gunning. He took 14 shots and nine free throws in the first 20 minutes and just five shots and three free throws in the second half. He played the role of the decoy, running off of screens to favorable mismatches for the big men while burying himself in the corner to create driving lanes for White. That was just as important in the Ole Miss comeback as anything.
He also got to the free throw line 12 times — his second highest total on the season — and didn’t commit a single turnover.
Henderson had an off-night shooting the ball, but beyond that he played a fairly typical game by his standards and played a significant role in the 16-0.
To criticize him for poor shot selection or bad defense is to admit you haven’t watched him play this year. He’s become must-see TV this year because he’s lacks a conscience shooting the ball and is liable to do just about anything on the court, not because he’s an all-american or a future lottery pick. If anything, he showed a willingness to be a teammate and a piece in an offense on Tuesday night, although you won’t see that written anywhere else today.
There’s bigger issues for Ole Miss coming out of Tuesday’s game, however: injuries.
The Rebel’s two most important reserves — guard Nick Williams and big man Aaron Jones — both went down with what appear to be serious injuries. Jones suffered a non-contact knee injury when his right knee buckled as he was trying to plant. Williams has been dealing with plantar fasciitis, but his injury looks like it could be a snapped ligament in his foot.
That means that after losing to Kentucky at home, the only two relevant opponents the Rebels have in SEC play this season — road trips to Florida and Missouri — will come in the next 10 days and, in all likelihood, without their top two reserves.
For a team looking to convince the country that they aren’t overrated with an inflated record against mediocre competition, that’s bad news.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.