There will be an elephant in the room Saturday at the Tad Smith Colliseum. He’s 6-2 and weighs 177 pounds, but make no mistake, you will know where he is always. It’s Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, and whether he’s taking pictures with the president of Texas A&M, tweeting about #whitegirlwednesday in Oxford or draining threes his bombastic personality demands your attention. Henderson steals spotlights and grabs headlines — those are verbs for a reason. He actively takes your attention away from the game around him; the marquee has his name and his alone.
No more prominent in the minds of Florida fans was Henderson than after UF’s 66-63 loss to Ole Miss in the championship of the 2013 SEC tournament. That Sunday afternoon Henderson left a mark by mock Gator chomping on the court, it’s a sight Florida head coach Billy Donovan doesn’t let his players forget. Florida center Patric Young says there’s a video of Henderson doing the chomp on a loop in the locker room. The veteran center spoke candidly about what it’s like to play against Henderson.
“He doesn’t really talk too much,” Young said. “It’s more when he does something he just really wants everyone to know he did something good. That’s more like what he does. And he’ll talk a little in pre-game warmups. Other than that, he’s a pretty decent guy.”
There is as much passivity in his antics on the court as there are in his play — 22.9% of Ole Miss shot attempts belong to Henderson, and 48% of the 3-point attempts the Rebels take belong to him as well. For comparative purposes: Florida’s leader in each category is Casey Prather with 16.4% of UF’s total field goal attempts and Micheal Frazier II with 37% of Florida’s attempted threes.
Henderson is third in the SEC in points per game with 19.4 and has already set the Ole Miss record for most consecutive games with a three-point basket. Should he hit from downtown against Florida he will tie the SEC mark for consecutive games with a three.
The task of guarding him is yet to be determined but Florida head coach Billy Donovan knows he presents a unique challenge
“I don’t even know if [Scottie Wilbekin] will be guarding Henderson,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what we’ll do there. They’ve got a lot of different players. We’re going to move around match-ups, I think, for Henderson. You’re not going to take away all of his shots. Andy [Kennedy] does a good job of putting him in situations to utilize the thing that he can do well, which obviously is shoot the ball with great range.”
The emphasis for Florida will be on team defense, it’s not one player that makes Florida’s defense go. It takes a village to stop an opponent (especially from behind the 3-point line) and that’s something the Gators didn’t do all that well in their last time out against Auburn, especially in the first half. Donovan estimates half of guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen’s game high-five three pointers came off of breakdowns in defense in which too much help defense was offered to other players, allowing Shamsid-Deen to become open.
Perimeter defense will be of paramount concern not only because of Henderson. Florida’s 3-point field goal percentage defense is eleventh in the SEC, it will meet an Ole Miss team that leads the SEC in 3-point field goals made with 8.1 per game on Saturday. The dichotomy is something Donovan is concerned about.
“[Ole Miss] is a different team from the standpoint that Auburn was only making about five threes a game while this team is making about eight a game and obviously has the ability to make much more,” Donovan said.
Henderson will get his, he’s too talented of a player not to and Florida knows it. But his histrionics are not what motivate the Gators, and they don’t let it get under their skin no matter how many times they watch Marshall chomp in the locker room.
“We want to be great,” Young said. “That’s the key internal factor for us to want to play this game. It’s another opportunity to strive for that. We know what they’re capable of doing, so we have to come ready to play.”