March 8, 2014 10:53:33 PM
OXFORD -- Moments after the final buzzer sounded, the Ole Miss men's basketball fans rushed down to the tunnel where the players leave the court, cheering for Marshall Henderson one last time.
One of the most popular and polarizing players in program history had left a winner.
Henderson scored 18 points and Jarvis Summers added 12 as Ole Miss rallied to beat Vanderbilt 65-62 on Saturday afternoon.
"It was crazy shaking everyone's hand after the game," a teary-eyed Henderson said following the game. "All these people came down, right to the tunnel and I just can't believe it."
Ole Miss (18-13, 9-9 Southeastern Conference) won for just the second time in eight games. The Rebels trailed for almost the entire afternoon, but pushed ahead 61-60 on two free throws by Henderson with 3:36 remaining.
Henderson struggled with his shooting on Senior Day, finishing 5 of 19 from the field, including 2 of 13 from 3-point range. But he switched his strategy at the end, driving to the basket and getting fouled, which led to several clutch free throws in the final minutes.
"I just tried to encourage him to take what the defense gives you," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "He had a couple shots at the end that were Marshall-like -- those tough leaners -- but they just didn't go for him today. But I'm glad we were still able to get the win."
Vanderbilt (15-15, 7-11) lost its fourth straight game. Dai-Jon Parker scored a career high 25 points and Luke Kornet also had a career high with 13. The Commodores had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but Nathan Watkins missed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Ole Miss won despite struggling to shoot from just about everywhere on the floor. The Rebels made just 18 of 54 (33.3 percent) shots from the field, including 5 off 22 (22.7 percent) from long range. The Rebels did force Vanderbilt into 17 turnovers.
Henderson was honored before the game, receiving a warm reception from the crowd at Tad Smith Coliseum. The 6-foot-2 guard from Hurst, Texas, hasn't always had a smooth career and often projected a bad boy image across the SEC.
Much of that was earned. He came to Ole Miss after serving a short stint in jail following a probation violation and had a run-in with Oxford police during the summer that was part of the reason for a three-game suspension this season. He was also reprimanded by the NCAA after an outburst following the team's loss to LaSalle in the NCAA tournament.
But the fans in Oxford love him, and there's little denying his production.
He's scored more than 1,000 points in two years and has made a 3-pointer in 64 straight games, which is an SEC record. He also helped lead the Rebels to an SEC tournament title and the NCAA tournament last year.
"You are ultimately what your numbers say you are and Marshall has put up some staggering numbers that will be hard to touch as it relates to his ability to score in a prolific manner," Kennedy said.
The Rebels have struggled some this season, though Henderson's production has remained virtually the same. Ole Miss has a young frontcourt that has been inconsistent and Vanderbilt exploited it early, dominating in the paint on the way to a 37-32 halftime lead.
Parker led the Commodores with 12 points in the first half while Kornet added 11.
Vanderbilt stretched its lead to 44-32 early in the second half before a Henderson 3-pointer stopped the rally. It was one of the few times the Commodores let him get a decent look from long range.
Henderson eventually switched his approach, penetrating into the lane for some closer looks.
"The shots weren't going in but the drives were there," Henderson said.
Ole Miss couldn't get any separation until Martavious Newby hit a pair of free throws to give the Rebels a 65-62 lead with 26.6 seconds left. A defensive stand in the final seconds helped secure the win, with Watkins getting a hurried look as time wound down.
"Once we finally were able to string together some baskets, the momentum shifted to us," Kennedy said.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP
1. Saban kicks RB Jones off Alabama football team COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Caledonia's Hollowell has carved out role as starter HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. MSU alters rotation with eye on South Carolina series COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Lee making impression at fall camp COLLEGE SPORTS
5. MSU softball aiming for Top 16 finish in RPI COLLEGE SPORTS