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Marshall Henderson scores 19 in regular season debut as Ole Miss hangs on

Nov 16, 2013, 9:46 PM EDT

henderson AP

After an eventful offseason that included failed drug tests and an indefinite suspension from the program, Ole Miss senior guard Marshall Henderson made his 2013-14 debut in the Rebels’ game at Coastal Carolina. With the reigning SEC tournament champions having lost both Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway from last season’s team, the return of Henderson is an important one based upon his ability to score.

Henderson came off the bench on Saturday night, finishing the game with 19 points (14 in the second half) on 6-for-16 shooting to go along with four rebounds, four steals and three turnovers. And while the field goal percentage wasn’t at the level that either he or head coach Andy Kennedy would like, Henderson made two key plays to help the Rebels hold off a tough Coastal Carolina squad by the final score of 72-70.

Coming out of a timeout with 4:14 remaining and a two-point lead, Henderson knocked down a three to push Ole Miss’ lead out to five (63-58). And then he would follow that up with a steal and dunk a minute later to increase that lead to seven points, a cushion the Rebels ended up needing in the end. Two turnovers (one committed by Henderson as he attempted to split a double-team) and spotty foul shooting gave Cliff Ellis’ Chanticleers life, but a Josh Cameron three-point attempt to tie the game with nine seconds remaining rattled in and out.

Those two plays illustrate why Henderson, the team’s lone senior, is so important to Ole Miss this season. He may be a lightning rod, but he also has the ability (and willingness) to go out and make those big plays when Ole Miss needs them the most. In total five Rebels scored in double figures, with Jarvis Summers adding 14 points after battling first-half foul trouble and Derrick Millinghaus 12, but if anyone’s going to get Ole Miss a key bucket in crunch time it’s going to be Henderson.

Henderson’s not completely out of the clear when it comes to his suspension, as he’ll have to sit out Ole Miss’ first two SEC games, but there should be no disputing the importance of his return.¬†Ole Miss will have some growing pains to deal with as players who had minor roles last season adjust to being asked to do more, and they need to do a better job of focusing down the stretch. But with Henderson back the Rebels have a player they can look to for big plays, even if the wait to see what happens can be a nerve-wracking one at times.

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