Henderson, Summers too much for WKU late, Rebels defeat Toppers 79-74

Freshman Brandon Harris and junior Trency Jackson attempt to catch up to Ole Miss point guard Marshall Henderson during the final moments of the game at Diddle Arena on Dec. 30. WKU lost to Ole miss 74-79. 

Tyler Lashbrook

For all of the x’s and o’s that go into basketball, games are often won and loss on guys simply hitting big shots. On Monday night, Mississippi’s Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summer hit big shots late in the second half, pushing the Rebels past WKU, 79-74.
The pair combined for 17 points in the final 7:28 of the game, with Henderson hitting back-to-back three-pointers with just a couple minutes left to play.
“Marshall (Henderson) made a couple of big shots—which he does,” WKU coach Ray Harper said. “And (Jarvis) Summers was very, very physical tonight. He got us in the paint area and he was physical as a point guard and made big plays.”
Henderson is known in the college basketball world for his colorful on-court antics and fearless shot taking. Give him an inch and he’ll pull up just inside the half-court line. Take away his off the dribble shot and he’ll run around a series of screens, releasing the ball from finger tips before a defender can put a hand in his face.
“Like everyone says about him, he’s going to take a lot of crazy shots and he’s going to hit a lot of them,” WKU forward George Fant said. “It was a close game right there at the end—a one possession game—and he had two big shots back-to-back and that’s probably the different in the game.”
Henderson finished the night with 23 points, hitting seven shots behind the arc and netting a pair of free throws with less than 20 seconds left. Six of those threes were out-of-nowhere shots in which he fooled the Toppers with a quick trigger. One shot, however—the one that gave Ole Miss an unsurmountable four-point lead—was wide open off an offensive rebound. The Diddle Arena crowd, who heckled Henderson all night, gasped, knowing the shot was in before it even left his hand.
WKU was led by junior guard T.J. Price, who led all scorers with 26 on 7-of-14 shooting. He hit six three-pointers, six free-throws, grabbed five boards and dished out three assists.
Price scored eight of WKU’s first 10 points—two long range jumpers and a pair of free throws—in the first four minutes. The crowd, announced at 7,523, the largest non-conference crowd since building renovations in 2002-03, rose to its feet minutes later when Price hit a deep three-pointer—his third in the first 10 minutes—ballooning the Toppers a 13-point lead midway through the first half.
After the game, Price voiced his appreciation of the crowd.
“I want to thank the crowd,” he said. “They were a reason we were in it.”
Harper said the crowd was “unbelievable.”
“That’s what WKU basketball is all about,” he said.
A pair of Ole Miss long-range shots and a wide-open dunk in transition cut the Toppers lead to three points before Caden Dickerson knocked down a long jumper. Henderson netted a pull-up 28-foot jumper moments later to retake a one-point lead for the Rebels.
Henderson answered the WKU crowd, sinking a long, fadeaway three-pointer a minute later, then smiling and nodding back to the packed house. On Ole Miss’ next possession, the enigmatic star fell down, leading to a wide-open Topper basket.
Henderson fist pumped off the court as the Rebels took a 39-36 halftime lead. He finished the first half as the game’s leading scorer with 12 points—all three from behind the arc. Price led the Toppers with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field.
Five-straight points out of the proverbial second half starting gate from Price gave the Toppers a two-point lead but Ole Miss’ Sebastian Saiz tied things back up with a post-up bucket. The score seesawed back-and-forth from there, with the Diddle crowd rising with each WKU bucket and sighing to its seats when Ole Miss would answer.
Ole Miss took a three-point lead, 63-60, with 5:11 remaining after Summers knocked down a pair of free-throws, his fifth and sixth straight points of the game. WKU forward Aaron Adeoye netted a pair of free throws to cut Ole Miss’ lead to one, but Summers knocked down another jumper, his eighth straight point for the Rebels.
Moments later, Price followed his own miss with an open bucket at the rim to knot the score up at 65 with two-and-a-half minutes left to play. Summers missed his second free-throw on the Rebels’ next possession; Saiz gathered the miss and kicked it out to Henderson who promptly knocked down his sixth and easiest triple of the night, extending the Ole Miss lead to four.
Price netted a pair of free throws on the next possession and the packed crowd rose to its feet. But Henderson, the crowd’s arch nemesis, dropped in a long, contested three-point bucket, giving the Rebels a five-point lead. A Topper turnover led to another pair of free throws for Summers, who knocked down both this time.
Jackson finished an and-1 bucket at the rim to give the Toppers some life, but he missed the ensuing free throw. Moments later Fant split a pair of free throws, but Rebels forward Aaron Jones was sent to the stripe, where he sunk both attempts, sealing the Rebels’ victory and effectively ending WKU’s non-conference play.
The Toppers, who managed an 8-5 out-of-conference record, move into their final year of Sun Belt Conference play by traveling to Mobile, Ala. Thursday to play South Alabama in the first conference game of the season.
“We played, I think they said, four teams that won 27 games or more last year, “Harper said,” we played two teams that were in the Final Four last year so I think we played a difficult schedule. I like where we are, but at the same time knowing Thursday night (against South Alabama) is going to be difficult. We’ve got to put this one behind us.
“It’s one of those deals in basketball when you can’t get too high after a win or too low after a loss. Stay on even-keel, it’s a long season and I think we will do that. Hopefully our veterans will lead us in that direction.”