Only two days ago after a loss to Georgia Tech, the senior spilled his frustrations about the way that his team had been playing over the last several games, emphasizing that no single player was to blame.
Against Pittsburgh, the senior guard knew what he needed to do. A 2-4 start to conference play sounds manageable, whereas a 1-5 start signifies a true feat to try and bounce back from. With a sense of urgency and the possibility of a season on the line, Henderson stepped up and was everything that the Pack needed him to be on Tuesday night.
Henderson said, “I wasn’t going to be able to deal with myself if we took another loss, especially on our home floor.”
A loss is exactly what he would prevent from happening.
With 7:39 left on the clock, the Wolfpack found itself down by seven points. All of PNC Arena was antsy, almost as if they were waiting for the Panthers to seal the deal in one way or another. Henderson stepped in and took matters into his own hands. After missing his own jumper, teammate Omer Yurtseven grabbed Henderson’s rebound but missed the next two put back attempts. Fighting his way through the lane, Henderson went up and over 6’9” Michael Young to score.
Following it up with a 3-pointer on the next play, the Wolfpack was back within two in a matter of seconds with less than two minutes to play.
The 6’4” shooting guard from Raleigh, N.C. hasn’t taken the conventional route to get where he is today, but it’s proven to work in his favor. Playing at Neuse Christian Academy in Raleigh, Henderson never received an offer from Mark Gottfried out of high school. Instead, he chose West Virginia where he made an instant impact as a freshman, starting in 11 games against some of the most competitive talent in the league as a part of the Big 12.
Upon deciding to transfer, coach Mark Gottfried took his opportunity to bring the guard back home the second time around. A long year of sitting out was followed up with a season-ending injury just six minutes into Henderson’s first game during the 2015-16 season. Today, Gottfried’s team would be missing a critical piece of the puzzle without his playmaker.
Gottfried said that it’s timing in games like those against Pittsburgh when he’s confident in the abilities of his veteran players to lead the team for a statement finish and win.
“I thought we were really, really bad against Georgia Tech and still had a chance to win,” Gottfried said. They couldn’t do it on Sunday. “Terry, BeeJay, those guys have been around a little bit more. I thought they stepped up and gave us some good leadership.”
It’s not just his ability to close out games when the team needs a boost. It’s the fact that Henderson provides a certain presence on the court that demands attention. Henderson’s court awareness is proven on a weekly basis in terms of knowing his opponents and knowing that his job varies from game to game.
Pittsburgh’s Jamel Artis had been averaging 26.3 points over the last eight games and also leads the ACC in scoring with 22.4 points per game and 3-pointers at .463 percent. On Tuesday night, Artis was limited to five points during the first half with Henderson guarding him.
Teammate Maverick Rowan said, “Moving forward, I think Terry can be a great leader for us.”
Even though the defensive effort against the Panthers was better as a whole, Henderson made it one of his goals to shut down the competition, crediting his play to focus.
“Laser focus,” Henderson said. “From the tip to the end of the game, I tried to come out there with as much focus as possible. Our teammates did a good job of picking up that focus. Everybody matched each other’s intensity on defense, which I feel like we won the game on defense tonight.”
Henderson did his job on defense but knows that the young team still has a lot to work on. He said that they want to be great, but understand that greatness comes with time and a lot of emphasis to detail.
Paying attention to detail is one of Henderson’s specialties, especially in perfecting his game. He’s a do-it-all person for the Wolfpack, always showing up at the right place at the right time. Just four minutes into the game, Henderson grabbed a defensive rebound and drove down the court for a quick layup that would set the tone for the rest of the game – a sense of urgency and resiliency.
Throughout the entire season to date, Henderson has stressed the need for toughness from everyone on the team, including the need to start strong from the beginning. That toughness was evident against the Panthers, with each move being calculated throughout the night. Henderson pulled down eight rebounds off the glass, which was the second-most on the team behind Omer Yurtseven with a career-high 16.
He added another four assists, throwing clean perimeter passes in an attempt to shake up Pittsburgh’s defense. Henderson also effectively finished in the lane, taking Gottfried’s advice to get aggressive after the previous game seriously.
Crediting the win to the team’s defensive effort, Henderson said that he met with his team and had multiple discussion amongst each other detailing what they needed to do. Not touching the ball on offense during practice, Henderson said that they didn’t care about offense at all against Pittsburgh. Because of the effective defense, the offense translated over.
Henderson was able to make seven 3-pointers with help from point guards Dennis Smith and Markell Johnson, which only helped his fourth place rank in the ACC for baskets made behind-the-arc.
“When they came out and played a little one, two, two trapping, kind of half court press – we had Dennis and Markell push both Maverick and Terry down to the baseline,” Gottfried said. “We really wanted those guys to be down on the baseline and try to find shots in the corner or somewhere on the wings. I thought with Markell playing, it actually helped Maverick and Terry. They looked for them. They created shots for them. I thought they both stepped up and made big shots.”
After pulling ahead by one point with 3:51 left on the clock, Henderson said that the five on the court focused on each possession rather than just running the clock down.
“I know especially when we took the lead, we pretty much told each other each possession, you know, let’s make sure we get the stop and get the rebound and get a good shot on offense,” Henderson said.
The Panthers managed to bring the score back within one possession with seven seconds left, but Henderson would put the stamp on the win for his team. During the final two seconds, he knocked down two free throws right before the buzzer sounded.
The senior is choosing to push through during his final season when the going gets tough. Like his coach said, “We can be a good team. Still. Everything is attainable.”
But only with the help of Henderson.