Marshall Henderson’s opportunity has arrived to show Kentucky who is ‘the real national champ’

Kyle Ringo
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Marshall Henderson's debut season in the SEC has been nothing short of, well, interesting thus far, and tonight should provide another chapter as the Ole Miss junior tries to backup some offseason trash talk by beating Kentucky.

When Henderson signed with Ole Miss in April, he said he was looking forward to playing Kentucky this season so he could show the Wildcats who the "real national champ is." It was a reference to winning the JUCO national title last season at South Plains College in Texas. Kentucky obviously won the national title in Division I.

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Several media outlets in Kentucky reminded Wildcats fans of Henderson's comments today. It's not as if the Wildcats need any further motivation to shut down Henderson, the SEC's leading scorer at 19.2 points a game, tonight, but now they have some. Kentucky is in danger of missing the NCAA tournament with six losses already.

Henderson hasn't even played every team in the SEC yet and he's already becoming the most intriguing -- some might say hated -- player in the conference. He and his teammates are coming off a win at Auburn last week in which he made the game-clinching free throws and then taunted the Auburn student section by popping his jersey toward in their direction and screaming at them. His behavior was greeted with curse words, objects hurled in his direction and plenty of middle fingers.

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Tonight is the first time that Ole Miss and Kentucky have played with the Rebels boasting a national ranking -- No. 16 -- and the Wildcats out of the polls since 2001. Ole Miss has won nine straight and is 6-0 in the SEC tied with Florida at the top of the conference standings. It hasn't won seven straight conference games since 1998.

Kentucky has held its past three opponents to less than 40 percent shooting. Can it make it four? Henderson has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and in 15 straight.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo

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