- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - With Marshall Henderson missing shot after shot in the opening half, sophomore Anthony Perez knew it would take someone else to keep Mississippi in striking distance of South Carolina.

Perez did better than that, his career-high 22 points helping the Rebels rally from 12 points down and then hang on in a frantic finish for a 75-74 victory Saturday.

Henderson, Ole Miss’ dynamic and showy fifth-year senior, was only 1 of 8 for the first 20 minutes and the Rebels found themselves down by double digits. Perez picked up the slack, the 6-foot-9 sophomore bettering his previous best of 14 set against Mississippi Valley State in November.

“I think tonight I got comfortable in the game, got some confidence and I started making shots,” Perez said. “All the games before, I was missing shots and getting out of my head, getting out of focus.”

Not in this one. Perez made five of nine shots and made 10 of his 12 free throws. He also added four rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes of action. Henderson finally got going in the second half, scoring 16 of his 19 points for Ole Miss (12-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference).

The Rebels seemed in control, leading 74-69 with 35 seconds remaining on Henderson’s foul shots. That’s when South Carolina fought back a final time. Brenton Williams was fouled while shooting a three and made the free throws to cut things to 75-74 with six seconds left.

Henderson threw the inbounds away and Williams collected it to give the Gamecocks (7-10, 0-4) a final chance. But Sindarius Thornwell’s last-ditch heave from the top of the key was off target and South Carolina lost its sixth straight league game.

“We got the timeout. We got the ball. We didn’t get the shot we wanted at the end,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.

“Thank, God, he didn’t make it,” Perez said.

Mississippi was down 39-27 early in the second half and needed to catch fire to catch up with the Gamecocks. Henderson finally got going and provided that spark with seven points in less than a minute to get the Rebels back in it.

“We gave into the way the game was being played instead of trying to impose our will,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “The second half, it didn’t take us 10 minutes to climb back, it took us three minutes to climb back and then we looked and said, ‘Hey, this is a basketball game.’”

Ole Miss still trailed 66-61 after Duane Notice’s two jumpers with four minutes left.

That’s when Henderson drove right of the lane for a basket and got fouled for a three-point play. Perez tied the game with two foul shots on Ole Miss’ next possession. Perez followed a minute later with a three to put the Rebels ahead for good, 71-68.

Henderson was held to 1-of-8 shooting in the opening half, yet made his points count - and put on a show - in the second half. When he hit the last of his three 3-pointers to put Ole Miss ahead 48-47, Henderson dragged his finger across the floor like a match on his way to the bench.

Jarvis Summers added 19 points for the Rebels.

Martin thought his team played strong defense on the Ole Miss star early on. “Then we lose Marshall Henderson, he makes some shots and now you’ve got a problem,” Martin said.

Henderson was not made available to the media Saturday.

South Carolina had plenty of things going against it in this one.

Point guard Tyrone Johnson was lost indefinitely when he broke his right foot in a loss at Texas A&M; last Wednesday night. Established point guard Bruce Ellington, also the football team’s top receiver, gave up the rest of his senior season in basketball to train for the NFL draft. That left the Gamecocks with three freshmen rotating in at the position in Duane Notice, Jaylen Shaw and Thornwell.

And Henderson looked like he was ready to build on his last showing when he scored 25 points to lead the Rebels past LSU, 88-74, on Wednesday. But Henderson and Ole Miss were off - way off - in the opening period.

South Carolina may have been fueled by the atmosphere and large crowd at the 18,000-seat arena. The program was celebrating the legacy of late coach Frank McGuire and several of his players, including Alex English, Bobby Cremins, Mike Dunleavy and Brian Winters were on hand for ceremonies.

Then Gamecocks football coach Steve Spurrier and his players took the floor at halftime, the crowd saluting a third straight 11-2 season. Also on hand was defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who gave up his senior season for the NFL draft. Clowney is considered by many the top pro prospect.

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