KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Marshall Henderson’s frustration was mounting with each 3-pointer that rattled out or clanged off the back rim. If this was supposed to be his coming out party on a national stage, he may as well have sent everyone home and thrown the cake in the trash.
Henderson, the swagger-walking, trash-talking standout for Ole Miss, had shot the kind of percentage you might find from an out-of-shape chucker in the over-50 YMCA league during the first half against Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament Friday afternoon. He was 1 for 11 from the field, including 0 for 4 on 3-point attempts.
If Ole Miss lost to Wisconsin, he thought, everyone would blame him.
“I’ve shot like 20 hundred million shots in my day,” he would say later. “Now that I make the NCAA tournament, why does this happen?”
Fortunately for Henderson and his teammates, he vindicated himself to help No. 12 seed Ole Miss upset No. 5 Wisconsin, 57-46, in a Round of 64 game at Sprint Center.
Henderson didn’t shoot particularly well, but considering how he began, he demonstrated marked improvement when it mattered most. He finished the game 6 of 21 from the field, including 3 of 12 on 3-point tries, and scored a game-high 19 points.
“I had to pick it up a little bit, and I think I did it just a tad,” he said. “So now I’m glad I’m going to have a chance to redeem myself on Sunday.”
Ole Miss (27-8) moved on to face No. 13 seed La Salle (23-9) on Sunday in the Round of 32.
Afterward, Wisconsin players and coaches said they chased Henderson off screens exactly as the scouting report had indicated. But the Badgers also lost him on a few occasions, and Henderson made them pay.
Henderson buried his first 3-pointer to trim the Ole Miss deficit to 36-33 with 11:25 remaining in the second half. He tied the game at 36 with another 3 at the 9:45 mark. And his last 3 proved to be a dagger when he put the Rebels ahead 50-44 with 2:49 left.
“It was good for 20 minutes,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “He hit a couple others. It’s not like he went crazy on us. Guys were doing their job on the chase. We missed an assignment on the last one that he hit because we had worked on that. We had a player not do what he was supposed to do on that trap door, and they got the 3.”
Henderson called himself a “Tasmanian Devil” who runs circles around opponents when he comes off screens. And Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy admitted that style could be physically and mentally draining for opposing teams.
“For us, there’s no question, ‘Marshall Mania’ affects the psyche of the other team,” Kennedy said. “How can you avoid it? Marshall this, Marshall that. For us, it’s another day at the office.”
Wisconsin is widely regarded as one of the better defensive teams in the country every season under Ryan, and statistics generally back up that claim. The Badgers entered the game ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense (55.9 points per game), but Henderson wasn’t willing to give them credit.
“Their defense wasn’t what everyone said their defense was,” Henderson said. “I just missed shots.”
One day before the game, Henderson’s mouth ran at typically full speed when he told reporters he was out to “get paid here soon because I’m tired of doing all this stuff for free.” It was an indication of his desire to play in the NBA, but for most of Friday’s game, he certainly didn’t look like a legitimate pro prospect.
Perhaps that was why he appeared to tone down his usually over-the-top antics on made 3-pointers. In previous games, he taunted opposing fans and stared down the crowd. On Friday, his behavior was limited to some chest thumping and raising his arms in the air to pump up the Ole Miss cheering section.
“You can’t go a little crazy when you went 1 for your first 17,” Henderson said. ” I know when I can do it and when I can’t do it.”
Henderson’s basketball fame has continued to grow all season because of his behavior and his coach’s permission to shoot whenever he wants. Against Wisconsin, for example, he fired up his first 3-pointer just 11 seconds into the game and maintained his seemingly maniacal pace throughout.
Now, he’ll have at least two more days in the spotlight. On Friday, LeBron James got in on the act. James tweeted: “Man that dude Henderson from Ol Miss got the greenest light in basketball history!! Hahaha.”
Henderson responded on his Twitter account with a message that read in all caps: “I SUCK AND GET A LEBRON TWEET!!! HAHAHAHA I DONT WANNA HEAR NOBODY SAY NOTHIN, IVE MADE IT!!!”
James had more to say about Henderson after the Heat’s game Friday night, praising his confidence to keep shooting and calling him “a special guy”.
Henderson, a 6-foot-2 junior, entered the game averaging 20.1 points while shooting 35.8 percent on 3s. But his high-volume mentality has helped to offset that low percentage, and teammates have come to embrace his style.
“Coach Kennedy has told me I’ve got to be, what is it?” Henderson told reporters on the post-game podium.
“Serial killer,” Kennedy added with a smile. “But we won’t say that in this environment.”
For Henderson and Ole Miss, it was all smiles on Friday. Wisconsin, meanwhile, exited the NCAA tournament fully aware of all “Marshall Mania” had to offer.
“We were solid in the first half, but the second half is the half that counts,” Badgers forward Ryan Evans said. “He was able to get going in the second half. He had no restrictions. He just kept pulling and to his credit, he had no conscience.”