Marshall Henderson was heading back to his team's bench last week, a victory over rival Mississippi State in hand, when Bulldogs Rick Ray yelled an obscenity at Henderson.

The Bulldogs' coach apologized. He was in the wrong, not Henderson.

A year ago, it was the other way around. Henderson was the instigator. He was the villain. He was not the sympathetic figure.

Henderson is still the one player the opposing fans love to hate. But he has tuned them out and is just playing basketball, not listening or taking the bait of the jeers. He'll certainly hear them again Tuesday when he makes his one trip to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky.

Henderson, who sat out three games this season (the season opener and first two SEC games) due to a suspension because of a failed drug test in the offseason, is leading the Rebels by averaging 19.2 points a game. He's the only senior on the defending SEC tournament champs, and if Ole Miss is able to pull off an upset at Kentucky and move into sole possession of second place behind Florida then most likely it will be by Henderson's hand.

"I'm excited about this, but it won't be anything different," Henderson said of his Ole Miss' date with Kentucky (7 ET, ESPNU), a team, that like Ole Miss, stands at 6-2 and trails Florida (8-0 in the SEC). "It's a big-time place, big-time crowd and big-time team. We're tied for second place. That's what this game is about Tuesday."

But Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy knows the focus will be on Henderson, which is not lost on Henderson, either.

He's the target.

"People paint our heroes and our villains early and we don't allow them to get out of a box," Kennedy said. "Marshall was painted as a villain and it was some of his own doing. He's not harmless in the equation. But he's already projected as the guy. We go to Coastal Carolina, Western Kentucky and it's a sellout to see him. We're at Tennessee the other night in a damn snow storm and they still had 15,000 people there.

"People love to antagonize the antagonist. He's been good at not taking the bait."

Why?

"I honestly don't care as much about that anymore," Henderson said. "I've always been good about blocking it out. Going on the road has been nothing new for me. I know what it means to go and play at a packed house. I always tried to block out but I responded more last year."

The Auburn game was epic in the SEC last season, with Henderson flashing his jersey at the fans after a road win and drawing their ire. The video became a viral hit.