Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside
Emerson, Lake, and Palmer “Karn Evil 9”
The travelling circus act known as Marshall Henderson is back. Yes the guy last seen doing the Gator chomp shortly after the clock ran out on Ole Miss’ upset of the Florida Gators in last season’s SEC tournament championship game is back. And you couldn’t hardly tell it.
The Florida Gators travel to Oxford, MS on Saturday to take on Henderson and his Ole Miss Rebels squad. The bad boy of SEC basketball best known for draining three pointers and taunting opposing fans has been downright quiet and uneventful this season. So quiet I wondered aloud if he was still in college or had moved on due to graduation or yet another transfer. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that Henderson is still playing basketball for Ole Miss. He’s just been quiet, eerily quiet.
Of course, that may very well change on Saturday against the Gators. Don’t think for a moment the Gator players have forgotten the Gator chomp. Patric Young was asked on Friday if he saw Henderson running up and down the court doing Gator chomps after the final horn had sounded on the championship game upset.
“Well we have a video playing of him doing it over and over and over again in the locker room so how can I forget?” Young said.
I’d say they haven’t forgotten. They likely haven’t forgotten the stink of that loss either. The tourney’s number one seed they were expected to win going away but Marshall Henderson’s three point shooting helped lead them to the upset.
“It was really tough and that’s in the past,” Patric Young said of the loss. “Of course, losing the opportunity to cut more nets down, we’re going to have a little bit of a grudge in our hearts.”
A little bit of a grudge for the loss, but does it provided extra incentive going into Saturday’s game?
“We can’t let that be the motivating factor for us this year. We want to be great so that’s the key internal factor for us to want to play this game, so now the opportunity to strive for that. Going in we know what they’re capable of doing and we just have to come ready to play.”
Wait, what? Is that a player or a coach? Patric Young sure has taken on head coach Billy Donovan’s persona.
But what about Henderson and his Gator chomps and his mouth for that matter? Henderson runs his mouth like a mountain waterfall. Does that provide some extra motivation?
“He doesn’t really talk too much, it’s more like when he does something he just really wants everyone to know that he did something good. That’s more like what he does. Maybe he’ll talk a little bit in pregame warmups but other than that he’s a pretty decent guy.”
A pretty decent guy? Really? Did I wake up in bizarro world? Marshall Henderson is the John McEnroe of SEC basketball, the guy fans love to hate. A pretty decent guy? Come on Patric, help us out here. So is it hard to focus at all during the game with his antics and circus like showmanship?
“Not very hard at all, because we’re focused on ourselves and what goes on along the lines of our team. We’re staying on the path to become great. Getting unfocused by someone like that is not helping our team and everyone wants to do what it takes to help our team.”
Regardless of what Patric says you can bet the house the Gators will be fired up in this one. I’m sure the Gator fans in attendance will be as well. The Rebels will likely be too as they’re coming off an embarrassing fourteen point loss to Kentucky where the Cats dominated from start to finish and the final score was much closer than the actual game. With the Gators sitting at #2 in the nation and looking to move up to #1 and riding an 18 game win streak and undefeated conference record, they will continue to get every team’s best shot. Ole Miss is no different. The Gators saw last season what can happen against a motivated Rebel team. But after a near upset loss to Auburn at home on Wednesday night, it’s a certainty that Billy Donovan got the teams attention and will have them prepared for a battle against Ole Miss.
Regardless of the outcome, however, it will be nice to see what’s become of Marshall Henderson. While he might have toned down his carnival act, a mediocre record tends to do that, certainly his game is as sharp as ever. He put up 18 against Kentucky on an off night for him but he still drained five three pointers. He’s always a threat to score even from ridiculous territory as he showed against the Gators last season hitting one from downtown L.A. Billy Donovan knows all too well Henderson’s ability to go off but is concerned about more than just Henderson.
“They’ve played very, very well at home,” Donovan said. “Obviously, they’re coming off a loss against a really, really good Kentucky team. Certainly Henderson is a unique player in terms of his ability to shoot, and score, and his range, but I think they have other really, really good players.”
Really good players like guard Jarvis Summers who put up 22 against Kentucky or forward Anthony Perez who came off the bench to score 21 including 2-3 from three point range. Ole Miss is a team in love with the three point shot and that could be problematic for a Gators team which has been terribly inconsistent guarding the arc. From the highs of forcing Tennessee into 1-19 three point shooting night to the low of allowing Auburn to hit ten three pointers and almost pull the upset, the Gators have struggled to maintain consistency in their three point defense. They’ll need to be better against Ole Miss.
So on Saturday against Ole Miss the Gators seek to extend their school record for consecutive wins to 19 and remain unbeaten in the SEC. It’s another speed bump in the path to some lofty season goals including an undefeated conference season and a third SEC title in four season. No Gator team has ever accomplished either. This team is focused on history at this point.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time and Ole Miss is the next team in our path to become a champion, to hopefully become outright champion,” Young said. “There are so many goals that we want to accomplish this year and we’re just inching closer to it, we just can’t lose any speed towards that. We just need to keep grinding, stick to the process.”
Young added, “Yeah, I think we’d be the first class to ever do that, to win three outrights. And hopefully we can come away with that. It’d be nice to finish the SEC undefeated, it’d be nice to finish the rest of the year winning every game but we can just take it one game at a time and see how it goes from there.”
Ole Miss and Henderson would love nothing more to be the team to break the Gator’s hearts once again. Will Henderson be the one Gator chomping across the floor when the buzzer sounds on Saturday? Or will the Gators chomp Henderson and the Ole Miss Rebels?
Tune in to CBS at noon eastern to see.