BLOG — Ole Miss’ men’s basketball team has already gotten a taste of life without flamboyant senior guard Marshall Henderson. Now the Rebels are preparing to go a little longer without their leading scorer as they enter Southeastern Conference play.
Henderson’s conduct off the court and sometimes on it drew a three-game suspension before the season began. The first game came in the season opener against Troy back on Nov. 8 — a 69-54 Ole Miss win. The final two games of the suspension will come in tomorrow night’s SEC opener against Auburn (6 p.m., ESPN2) and at Mississippi State on Saturday.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said it’s not realistic to expect any one player to step up and duplicate the production of the SEC’s fifth-leading scorer and the league’s leader in 3-pointers made. The effort, Kennedy said, will have to be a collaborative one, but it’s something the Rebels knew was coming.
“He’s a guy that takes a lot of shots and plays about 27 or 28 minutes a game, so other people are going to have to fill that void. But we’re going to have to do it by committee,” Kennedy said during a meeting with the media Wednesday afternoon. “I can’t ask one guy to step in and fill that role. We’ll have to make the adjustment because we knew they were coming.”
Against Auburn, the Rebels will need their guards who are available — Jarvis Summers, Ladarius White, Martavious Newby and Derrick Millinghaus — to be at their best. The Tigers have ridden the hot hands of junior guard and Virginia transfer K.T. Harrell, the league’s leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, and senior guard Chris Denson (19 ppg) to an 8-3 record. Auburn has won four in a row, including victories over Atlantic Coast Conference foes Clemson and Boston College, prompting Kennedy to note that the Tigers are “playing their best basketball.”
“They’ve got the SEC’s leading scorer in K.T. Harrell and the (third)-leading scorer in Chris Denson,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that, in their backcourt. So that’s where their bread is buttered. They’re going to attack you off the dribble. They’re very athletic.”
But perhaps the most pressing concern for the Rebels entering league play is a lack of rebounding that’s turned into a chronic problem as of late.
The Rebels have been beaten on the boards by a combined 47 rebounds in the last five games. Freshman forward Sebastian Saiz has started the last two games and has helped by grabbing a combined 18 rebounds in those games, including a career-high 11 in Saturday’s loss to Dayton, but Kennedy said guards and wing players are going to have to start getting more active on the glass.
“We’ve got to make compensations in a number of areas in our backcourt based on size, but we’ve just got to keep grinding, get tougher, hold our blockouts longer and do the things that we can control to try to fix this area because if we don’t fix this area, I’m not sure we can be what we want to be,” Kennedy said. “Our margin for error is obviously not quite as large as it was last year based on a number of personnel issues, so we’ve got to fix what we can.”
Below is a portion of Kennedy’s meeting with the media.
See Thursday’s edition of the EAGLE for a complete preview of Ole Miss’ matchup against the Tigers. (January 8, 2014)