On the eve of his team's opening-round NCAA tournament matchup against Wisconsin, Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson offered some insight into his mindset.
"I'm trying to get paid here soon because I'm tired of doing all this stuff for free," he said. "And this is where you make your money, the NCAA tournament."
The performance that followed from Henderson was exactly what you'd expect from a trigger-happy gunner trying to make a name for himself and prove he's worthy of earning a paycheck someday. He shot the ball. Often.
Shaking off a nightmarish 1 of 13 start from the field with hardly a care, Henderson caught fire in the final 12 minutes and carried 12th-seeded Ole Miss to a 57-46 upset of the fifth-seeded Badgers. Hendserson scored 17 of his game-high 19 points during the Rebels' game-ending 27-10 blitz, a run he started with back-to-back threes that got him going after an ice-cold start.
The biggest shot from Henderson was a 25-footer with 2:52 left that answered a 3-pointer from Traevon Jackson and extended Ole Miss' lead back to six. That shot appeared to suck the life out of the Badgers and gave the Rebels the energy they needed to finish off the upset.
Why would Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy encourage Henderson to keep shooting despite so many ghastly off-balance jump shots in the first 28 minutes? Well, probably because Kennedy knows the rest of his defense-oriented roster needs a perimeter player to provide instant offense, and Henderson is the best option he has. The 6-foot-2 junior shot only 38.5 percent from the field this season yet led the SEC in scoring at 20.5 points per game.
"Coach Kennedy has told me I've got to be, what is it?," Henderson told reporters after the game.
"Serial killer," Kennedy interjected with a smile. "But we won't say that in this environment."
The topsy-turvy performance from Henderson was merely the latest chapter in a wild inaugural season at Ole Miss for the junior college transfer.
There was the game when Auburn students flipped him off and cussed at him for taunting them after sinking the game-clinching free throws. There was his 10-word postgame press conference in which he opted not to relive his team's win over Georgia because he had other Saturday night plans. And there was his gator chomp down the court after upsetting Florida in the SEC title game last week.
The key factor in all that, however, is that Ole Miss won all those games, something it would not have without Henderson. The Rebels had been a perennial NIT team prior to Henderson's arrival, but he has helped them win 27 games this season, capture the SEC tournament title and finally make the NCAA tournament.
Of course, Ole Miss wouldn't have won anything Friday were it not for its stout defense against Wisconsin.
Led by the interior duo of Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway, the Rebels held the Badgers to 25 percent shooting and used a zone to turne them into a jump shooting team. Wisconsin was ineffective enough offensively that Ole Miss was able to hang around long enough for Henderson to finally find his range.
College basketball video from Yahoo! Sports:
More NCAA tournament content from Yahoo! Sports:
• Photo gallery: Best hair of March Madness
• Jeremy Lin among those excited about Harvard's NCAA tourney win
• Davidson suffers cruel, historic heartbreak vs. Marquette
• Gonzaga denies Southern a shot at history
- Sports & Recreation
- Ole Miss