Marshall returns home tied for sixth
HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s Thundering Herd put together about five minutes of inspired basketball Saturday night but it wasn’t nearly long enough to end a downward spiral.
Rice pulled away from Marshall by 17 points with 15:39 left in their Conference USA men’s matchup at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston and the Herd took off for 12 unanswered points that sliced the deficit to five with 11:28 remaining. Rice stopped the uprising and went on to defeat Marshall, 74-69.
The Owls, a bottom tier C-USA team at 10-15 overall, improved their league record to 5-7. The Herd (13-12) fell into a tie for sixth place with its next opponent, UAB, at 6-6. Last-place Charlotte (6-18, 3-10) knocked off UAB in Birmingham, Alabama, 69-62.
Marshall began league play by winning its first five games before slumping.
“We’ve got to get people motivated,” Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said in his postgame radio remarks following the Herd’s third straight defeat and sixth loss in its last seven games. “We lost our mojo and we’re trying to get them motivated to where they know they have to come out and play every second of the game.”
Marshall had a few other good spurts, including drawing to within 68-66 after senior guard C.J. Burks made two free throws with 2:16 left to play. The Herd drew as close as 70-69 when sophomore forward Jannson Williams cashed a 3-point shot with 1:01 left in the game.
Rice sealed the win with the final four points.
“They’re (the players) trying to turn switches on and off and you
can’t do that,” D’Antoni said. “It takes a while to build that mojo back. You cant say ‘OK, we’ll get ready for the next game.’ No, its got to be ready all the time and come out and play in a fashion to win basketball games.”
With six games left in the regular season. Marshall has two at home this week — 8 p.m. Thursday with UAB (14-11,6-6) that shares sixth place with the Herd and 2 p.m. Saturday with Middle Tennessee (8-17,5-7) — before the C-USA pod schedule kicks in for the final four games to be determined by the standings.
Pod play is a new schedule format initiated by C-USA this season. The 14 teams will be placed in one of three groups (first to fifth, sixth to 10th and 11th to 14th) and play within their respective pods during the final two weeks leading into the conference tournament. Home and away games in the pods are determined by a preset formula.
After all 18 games are completed the top 12 teams based on the final standings will be seeded for the tournament March 13-16 in Frisco, Texas. Teams will be locked into seeds within their pods. For example, if a program lands in the second group (6-10), it will be seeded no higher than sixth and no lower than 10th.
The idea behind pod play is to have the best teams playing similar competition to possibly enhance their NCAA Tournament resumes.
“We’ve got two more games at home, we’ve got four in that block,” D’Antoni said. “It just takes a little click. We played Old Dominion when we were getting it right, they’re leading our league, and we beat them at their place so it can happen.
“We’ve somehow got to find our rhythm. The rhythm isn’t right. Some way as coaches and myself, I’ve got to try to help them find that and see if we can salvage this season and make sure we get into the playoffs on a run and then you never know after that.”
Marshall last season proved anything can happen after coming in fourth in the regular season then sweeping three games to win the C-USA tournament and advancing into the NCAA Tournament second round.
Rice shook off any affects of a Thursday double-overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky and had five double-figure scorers against Marshall.
Freshman guards Chris Mullins and Trey Murphy III scored 12 and 11 respectively for second-season head coach Scott Pera’s club. Jack Williams had 11 points and the 6-8 graduate transfer forward from Pacific University snagged eight rebounds. Six-foot-nine freshman forward Quentin Millora-Brown and 6-6 junior forward Robert Martin both added 10 points.
Burks led Marshall with 24 points, Williams turned in a double-double performance of 14 points with 12 rebounds and senior point guard Jon Elmore tossed in 13 points. Burks and sophomore guard Jarrod West both made four steals. Williams blocked three shots.
Elmore delivered seven assists to become the all-time conference leader in assists with 721. He passed former record holder Julyan Stone (2007-11) from UTEP who dished 714.
UAB (14-11, 6-6) AT MARSHALL (13-12, 6-6)
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Cam Henderson Center, Huntington
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM