NEW YORK — Ole Miss men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy called the play down the stretch of Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers “huge.” Then he gave a quick look into the differences of the players who led the undefeated Rebels to a 79-76 victory against Penn State on Saturday in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic.
Summers and Henderson scored 19 points and they combined for 11 of Ole Miss’ last 12 points in the final 5 minutes, 36 seconds.
“Jarvis is our leading scorer coming in and he was in foul trouble both games here, but he is our most experienced player and when they hit us in the mouth in the second half he got in his rhythm,” Kennedy said. “I trust him. He was the guy who made plays for us.”
Then there’s Henderson, the free spirit and star of last season’s team that advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002 but who was suspended for his actions toward fans after the loss to La Salle.
“Marshall does what Marshall does,” Kennedy said. “He plays around and takes crazy shots and changes the ebb and flow of the game. I see him make one 3 and then play close attention. He can shoot it a couple more times really quickly.”
Henderson was suspended for the season opener and will miss the first two Southeastern Conference games for the antics with fans in the regular season, SEC tournament, and NCAA tournament. He was suspended in July after police found him with small amounts of marijuana and cocaine during a traffic stop.
Henderson, who isn’t made available to the media, had a quick encounter with some fans in the sparse crowd of 3,088 at Barclays Center in the second half and referee Ted Valentine took him to the bench for a quick meeting with Kennedy.
“Somebody in the crowd said something to him and he responded,” Kennedy said. “Ted Valentine, one of the best officials in the business, told him he can’t control the fans from saying something but you can’t talk to them. That’s what happened.”
Henderson gave the Rebels (6-0) the lead for good at 69-68 on a drive with 5:36 to play. That was the start of the run by he and Summers.
D.J. Newbill got Penn State within 75-74 with a vicious dunk on the break after a Rebels’ turnover, but Henderson made three free throws with 1:14 left to make it a four-point lead.
“When a 3-point shooter gets fouled I think it switches momentum,” Kennedy said. “It is such a huge play. Marshall has huge elevation and singlehandedly he has been fouled taking a 3 more than all the players I have coached combined. He literally gets it at least once a game. Players are so amped to cover him and not let catch and shoot but he gets a little bit of an angle and he can get it off.”
Newbill had 23 points to lead Penn State (6-2), which had a five-game winning streak snapped. Ross Travis had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Nittany Lions, but Tim Frazier, who had 29 points in the 89-82 semifinal win over St. John’s, was held to nine points on 3-for-13 shooting. Frazier had 10 assists.
Mississippi opened a 13-point lead early in the game and Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said that was the difference even with the lead changing hands in the second half.
“I am thoroughly disappointed in the way we started the game,” Chambers said. “We can’t start games like that against a team with guards who can shoot like that.”
Both teams had strong efforts from 3-point range. Mississippi, which came in shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc, was 11 of 24 (45.8 percent), making 8 of 12 in the first half when it took a 44-39 lead. The Nittany Lions were 9 of 22 (40.9 percent) from 3-point range, over the 38.6 percent they were shooting entering the game. They made 5 of 10 3-point attempts in the first half.
“It was a tough play, a critical play but one the ref has to call,” Chambers said of the call that sent Henderson to the line for three free throws. “But when you start out the way we started, sleepwalking, we didn’t deserve to win.”
Newbill explained the comeback.
“We just tried to go hard with energy and they started missing shots,” he said.