NCAA BK

Ole Miss hopes Henderson hot early vs La Salle

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)

If he had any hair, Andy Kennedy would probably be pulling it out.

The Mississippi coach has been searching in vain all season for a way to jolt Marshall Henderson out of his habitual first-half funks.

In the upset victory over Florida in the Southeastern Conference finals, the affable and at times agitating - at least to opponents and their fans - Henderson scored all but three of his 21 points in the second half.

Then on Friday in a second-round NCAA tournament victory over Wisconsin, it was the same old story of cold early, hot late for the SEC's top scorer. His teammates kept running ball screens to get him open looks, but Henderson managed only two points in the first half. Then he went off for 17 in the second.

If Henderson finds his touch early Sunday night in the third-round game against La Salle, the 13th-seeded Explorers (23-9) could be in for a long game.

''I would like him to make shots earlier, that's for sure,'' Kennedy said. ''And he talks about it. I told him today he may be talking about it too much. It's almost like it's set in his mind. I've stopped fighting getting him to turn. I thought in the first half his looks were as clean if not cleaner than the second half. I don't know what it is.''

Jaunty and outgoing, Marshall seems to be enjoying this NCAA tournament as much as anyone involved. A few hours after the 12-seeded Rebels (27-8) ousted Wisconsin, pictures of him decked out in an Ole Miss sweatshirt having fun at a Kansas City nightspot were all over Twitter. The next day, Ole Miss officials were quick to say he was not drinking, but only at dinner with the rest of the team.

Showboating seems to come easier to Henderson than hitting an unguarded jumper. He revels in all the attention. He does not seem worried about giving anyone the wrong impression of himself or his school by getting his picture taken while out on the town.

''I guess it's cool,'' said the skinny, head-shaven sharpshooter. ''Gives people something to laugh at on the daily. It's kind of a joke really. It is funny to get people riled up. All you've got to do is say one little sentence that gets people all riled up over nothing and everyone starts saying all kind of crazy stuff.''

His basketball skills are undeniable. He needs one 3-point bucket to break the SEC record. He hit 88 percent of his free throws to lead the SEC in that category as well.

He does not shy away a checkered past which includes a 25-day jail term for violating probation. He was originally arrested for a misdemeanor charge of forgery for using counterfeit money to buy marijuana.

He also promises to do good deeds if NBA money should ever start rolling in.

`I have a goal in mind to make money playing basketball, and then honestly, deep down in my heart, I want to open an addiction and rehab center, because I've obviously been through some things,'' he said. ''And I don't know of many people who have been through what I've been through and can still get a college degree, and obviously, I have to thank basketball for that.''

Ramon Galloway, La Salle's high-energy senior guard, will probably draw the assignment to fight through the ball screens and guard Henderson.

''He's going to take his shots,'' Galloway said. ''My thing is just making sure to contest every shot. Not to give him anything easy. But I'm not going to get caught up in the Ramon Galloway and the Henderson show. It's about La Salle and Ole Miss.''

It will be the third game in five days for the Explorers, who beat Boise State on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio in the First Four, then took the red-eye to KC and ousted No. 4 seed Kansas State before a hostile crowd on Friday night.

Even though his players are young and eager, coach John Giannini admits fatigue is a concern.

''I'm always concerned about being fresh,'' he said. ''If someone saw our public workout a couple of days ago, it was the most boring one ever because we really didn't do anything. We did our preparation in a walkthrough in the hotel. I'm always concerned about being fresh, no question about it, especially right now.''

Tagged: Mississippi, La Salle, Marshall Henderson, Ramon Galloway

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