January 9, 2014 8:47:05 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE - Only one guarantee with the Ole Miss men's basketball team without Marshall Henderson is about 15-20 shots per game have to be accounted for somebody else.
The rest with the scouting report of the Rebels may be a complete mystery.
Just like in Ole Miss' 65-62 victory over Auburn Thursday night, Mississippi State will have to prepare for a game where the Rebels will be without its leading scorer in the highly controversial senior guard. Henderson, who is averaging 18.8 points per game in 14.58 shot attempts, is forced to sit out the team's first two Southeastern Conference games as part of a school-imposed suspension announced in October.
The 6-foot-2 senior was suspended a total of three games -- the season opener on Nov. 8 against Troy and the first two SEC games -- for on-and off-the-court issues during and following last season. Offensively it will likely be a group effort and more efficient system with seven of nine Ole Miss players recording an assist against Auburn Thursday night. Four Rebels starters had double figures including the guard combination of Jarvis Summers and Derrick Millinghaus.
"Other people are going to have to fill (Henderson's) void," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said before the game against Auburn. "We're going to have to do it by committee. I can't ask one guy to step in and fill that role."
The Rebels (10-4, 1-0 in SEC) will likely feed junior Summers, who has nearly doubled his scoring output from last season and scored a career-high 29 points against Dayton on Saturday.
MSU will have to rebound from a 85-63 blowout loss at No. 14 Kentucky where the Bulldogs (10-4, 0-1) led by three at halftime but didn't have enough stamina to last a 40-minute game against a quality opponent.
"We did a really good job of executing the game plan (in the first half) and competing as a team," MSU head coach Rick Ray said after the loss. "In the second half, we went more on our own and we aren't a team that can have a lot of success when we do that."
The two SEC opposing coaches were admittedly confused as to the kind of mentality and style Ole Miss would explore without Henderson. The Rebels guard leads all SEC players this season with 53 three-pointers and his ability to bail Ole Miss out consistently by turning and shooting won't be a option Saturday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum (3 p.m., ESPNU).
"Yeah, we will have to change," Kennedy said. "We'll have to change the way we play on both sides. We will have a little more flexibility defensively. We won't have to use so much smoke and mirrors. Offensively, obviously it's going to be a challenge."
Without a solid post threat beyond Demarco Cox, MSU's lack of depth on the front court may not be as obvious as Wednesday night against the Wildcats. Kentucky outrebounded the Bulldogs 17-9 on the offensive end and UK ended the evening with seven blocked shots.
"I told the guys after the game that was it going to be disappointing that no one will know how well they played in the first half, because we didn't give ourselves a chance in the second half," Ray said after the loss. "People will see the final score and not realize how hard we played and competed. We just quit doing some of the things that were allowing us to be successful."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.