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Marshall Henderson's behavior remains 'a work in progress'

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Marshall Henderson came off the bench and had 15 points in Ole Miss' win Friday. (USATSI)
Marshall Henderson came off the bench and had 15 points in Ole Miss' win Friday. (USATSI)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Everything was going so well. It was a cruise-control victory, an easy win to move Ole Miss to 5-0 for the second straight season.

But then Marshall Henderson had to react. A few more steps off the floor and 20 more seconds of silence from the Rebels' polarizing senior, and this story isn't getting written.

But when Henderson got bumped to the floor as time expired on Ole Miss' 77-67 win over Georgia Tech on Friday night at Barclays Center, he couldn't simply walk away. The contact, and Henderson's subsequent reaction, wasn't anything over the top. Relatively speaking, it was tame in comparison to what we've seen him do before.

But with Marshall Henderson, the small is never small. And the fact is, as the handshake line formed, he did have a few teammates hurry over to usher him off the floor and keep him separated as he blared out a few unkind words at the losing Yellow Jackets.

When asked about Henderson's maturity and ability to keep himself constantly composed, Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said, "It remains a work in progress."

But it shouldn't be a work in progress at this point. That is beyond the obvious. Henderson, who Kennendy suspended to start this year after failing drug tests in the offseason, is now a senior. He knows what he's seen as, knows he's a target for trash talk and baiting and inducement. He knows his reputation inside and outside the program.

The small is never small, and everyone is always watching -- and waiting -- for what Henderson could do next.

As for the Rebels' play overall, it was very impressive. Sophomore Derrick Millinghaus seems to be a rising star. The quick-and-tough point guard went for a team-high 16 points and was the most dominant factor in giving Ole Miss a 35-21 halftime advantage. Demarco Cox's 15 points and 13 rebounds also went a long way in the second half to getting Kennedy's team separation from a Georgia Tech club that was 5-1 coming into Friday.

"I thought our effort was outstanding," Kennedy said. "Outside from Henderson and (Jarvis) Summers, we have guys whose roles have expanded."

Henderson's has unquestionably shrunk so far in this his final season, even if he's averaging 14.3 points. Kennedy said Henderson will continue to come off the bench in the short term, definitely for Saturday's game at Barclays Center. And per a university decision, Henderson has been muzzled from the media throughout this season. A school official said it will remain that way for the forseeable future.

Though it's far from perfect (despite the 5-0 record) these Rebels appear to have options in their size, quickness and decent depth. It's a team that won't have to rely on Henderson to go off for 25 on the regular in order to compete. For Kennedy, and for Henderson, that could ultimately be the best situation for Ole Miss' success going forward.

Practically speaking, the obvious remains the toughest challenge here: Knowing when to play and when to walk away.

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