Mar 22, 2013, 2:44 PM EDT
Marshall Henderson will have to play for free for at least one more game.
The Ole Miss gunslinger shook off a 1-11 first half performance to finish with 19 points, hitting three big threes down the stretch as the No. 12 seed Rebels knocked off No. 5 seed Wisconsin, 57-46.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this win is that it was so much more than a big second half performance from Henderson.
Yes, Henderson made a series of big shots late in the game that likely staved off Ole Miss elimination. But he also missed 12 of his first 13 shots from the floor and played a major role in digging the hole that he helped Ole Miss climb out of.
It was the Rebel defense that won this game Wisconsin. The Badgers aren’t exactly known as a high-octane offense, but they are usually an efficient team that can execute in the half court and, generally speaking, usually shoots the ball well. On Friday afternoon, the Badgers shot 25.6% from the floor, 23.3% from three (7-30) and managed to score all of 0.754 PPP.
But it is a good sign for the rest of the tournament.
Wisconsin is a very good basketball team. They won at Indiana. They made it to the finals of the Big Ten tournament. I’m not sure Ole Miss would have gone .500 in the Big Ten. And the Rebels knocked off the Badgers in a game where their leading scorer shot 6-21 from the floor and couldn’t buy a bucket for the first 28 minutes.
Those early game struggles are something that Henderson has dealt with all season long. He has a tendency to get off to slow starts and finish games off strong. He’s made big shots over and over this season.
Ole Miss will advance to take on the winner of No. 4 Kansas State and No. 13 La Salle in the round of 32 on Sunday. How much farther they can advance in the tournament won’t depend just on how well Henderson shoots the ball, but on how well the Rebels can survive when he goes through those cold spells.
If they defend the way they did on Friday, we may get another week of Marshall Henderson press conferences.
And that’s something that’s good for everybody.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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