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March 15, 2014

McCready: Tears fall as Henderson's career ends

ATLANTA -- Marshall Henderson's final 3-pointer didn't fall Friday night.

The tears did.

Henderson made just two of 16 shots from behind the 3-point line Friday night in Ole Miss' 75-73 loss to Georgia in Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals.

Barring an NIT bid Sunday night, something Andy Kennedy conceded as unlikely, Henderson's Ole Miss career ended in the Georgia Dome on a night when the Rebels' lone senior simply couldn't get the ball to go through the net.

Henderson, who made seven 3-pointers Thursday in a win over Mississippi State, got good looks all night 24 hours later against Georgia. Henderson created looks off the dribble. He repeatedly got Georgia defenders to fly past him with fakes, leaving him with a clean view of the hoop.

His shots simply didn't fall. Henderson was 5-for-21 from the floor and 7-for-8 from the free throw line. He finished with 19 points in 37 minutes.

When he arrived at the podium for the postgame press conference, Henderson's eyes were red and moist. As a player, Henderson wore his emotions on his sleeve during two years at Ole Miss, perhaps the biggest reason Rebel fans fell in love with him and opposing fans loved to hate him.

So Henderson made no attempt to hold back the tears when it was over.

"I have so many thoughts running through my head about everything that it took to get to here," Henderson said, crying. "Then to go out like that, it's crushing in my heart because I want it so bad for everyone. (Kennedy) talked about effort. Effort's good, but you know, I'll take all this. I'll take the blame for all that. That's why it hurts."

Kennedy reached over and patted Henderson on the back, but Henderson's misses were still so fresh. There was no comforting him. Henderson missed his last six shots, including an open 3-pointer with five seconds left, one that would have given the Rebels a two-point lead.

"They kept telling us to get our weight forward, especially me, coming up short," Henderson said. "It's tough. I tried to think about that, but it's tough when you've got a guy chasing you. They just said kept saying, 'Keep shooting, keep shooting. We're living by it. We're dying by it. Let it ride.'"

So he did. A year ago, Henderson shot Ole Miss to the SEC tournament title and a trip to Kansas City for the NCAA tournament. He was one of college basketball's most recognizable faces. On Friday night, the clock struck midnight on Henderson. He was asked about his legacy at Ole Miss, but he wasn't ready to talk about it yet.

Others did.

"He's just a competitor, one of the best teammates I ever played with," Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summers said. "His passion, it's just unbelievable. He's just a warrior."

"When we got Marshall two years ago, I talked about his energy and his passion coming from a good place," Kennedy said. "You can see that. You don't see many 23-year-olds crying anymore. That's not cool. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. Sometimes those are misinterpreted. Sometimes he steps over the line.

"The thing I appreciate about Marshall the most is that he owns it. He is what he is. …Tonight shots don't go. We have to live with that because that's who we are."

Henderson said he plans to turn his focus to finishing his degree.

"I never thought that was going to be important, but it's getting a little closer," Henderson said. "It's kind of like the season. When it gets a little closer to the end, you kind of start to realize, 'Oh, now I want to get something done.'"

Kennedy, however, was already putting Henderson's career at Ole Miss in perspective.

"One day, God willing, he'll be honored as a legend at halftime for Ole Miss," Kennedy said. "He's earned that by the way he's played. Sometimes that's overshadowed by the other things, but he's a very good shooter, he's a very good competitor and he certainly made our program better in his time here."


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