Passionate Henderson Leads Ole Miss to SEC Title, NCAA Tourney
Regular season SEC champion Florida Gators jumped out to an early lead on Ole Miss, extended that lead throughout the first half, and, at times, looked dominant while Ole Miss looked rather lazy.
Then, came the second half, and along came leading scorer Marshall Henderson and the Rebels who won the SEC Conference Tournament 66-63.
After scoring just 3 points in the first half, Henderson, who averages 20 points per game, scored 18 in the second half, and his team’s performance reflected his, pulling ahead of Florida around the 12 minute mark and leading through the remainder of the game by as many as 6.
The Gators were able to tighten the game after a huge bucket by Senior guard Mike Rosario, who led the way for the Gators with 18 points. Following the clutch lay up, reserve Casey Prather stole the ball from Henderson with less than 30 seconds left which was followed by a Gators time out.
Florida got the ball to Senior big man Erik Murphy, the team’s leading scorer with 12.7ppg who managed just 9 points in the title game. Murphy missed a hook shot defended by Murphy Holloway who was fouled and made the first free throw, allowing the Rebels to extend the lead to 3.
With 8.6 second left on the clock, Holloway missed the second free throw, which Florida rebounded and got out to Scotte Wilbekin who was fouled by Ole Miss before he could launch a three point shot.
The Gators were then looking for a made first free throw followed by an intentional miss, rebound, and put back. Unfortunately, Wilbekin unintentionally missed the first free throw, but did miss the second and Murphy kicked it out to guard Kenny Boynton.
However, Boynton’s attempt was no good ending the game.
Murphy Holloway, in addition to Henderson, was the hero for the Rebels, scoring 23 points, getting his 38th career double double, and dominating the paint throughout the game. Holloway averages 14.4ppg.
Both the Gators and the Rebels will make the Tournament. The Rebels entered the SEC Tournament unlikely to make the field of 68, but their performance had them on the bubble entering the day. Their performance throughout the game had speculation that even a loss would have landed them in the tournament, but, now, the will be a dangerous automatic qualifier.
Henderson, the heart and soul of the Rebels, continued the antics for which he has become known. He is an intense player who often mocked Gators’ fans, including doing the famous “Gator chop” at points in the game.