Gore, defense lead Marshall women past North Texas
HUNTINGTON — On Thursday night, Marshall University applied its experience to its contest against the University of North Texas.
Last week, the Thundering Herd went on the road and earned a pair of wins in which it rallied from doubledigit halftime deficits, so the veteran group knew what to expect when it put the Mean Green in a similar hole. Each time North Texas made a run, the Herd made sure to have the answer, never letting the Mean Green get over the hump as Marshall earned a 67-55 victory at the Cam Henderson Center.
“That’s another good win for us against a good North Texas team,” Marshall head coach Tony Kemper said. “I thought we set the tone early defensively. We made it hard on them.”
Marshall moved to 14-9 overall and 8-2 in Conference USA, which keeps the Herd in the top four in the league.
For the second-straight game, the play of senior guard Shayna Gore carried Marshall to the victory. Last week, Gore went on a tear, finishing with 31 points to lead the Herd to an overtime win at UTSA. The momentum from that matchup continued as Gore put in one of her better all-around efforts of the season, scoring 25 points while adding nine assists. She also contributed in other ways with five rebounds and four steals, three in the first quarter.
“As a team, we’re so small that we have to play defense,” Gore said. “It’s going to lead to buckets for all of us. I think that’s what we all thought — ‘One stop at a time.’ Once we get a stop, it’s going to lead to good offense.”
While Gore’s offensive numbers jump out as what keyed the win, Kemper noted the collective defensive effort as the difference.
The game featured two of the league’s top scorers in Gore, third in C-USA at 19 points per game, and North Texas’ Terriell Bradley, who was just behind her in fourth at 17.6 points per contest. Marshall’s defense swarmed Bradley, not allowing open looks and forcing the Mean Green elsewhere. Bradley finished with eight points on 3 of 17 shooting. Despite the effort on Bradley, the game was in the balance until the final four minutes.
Marshall led 58-54, but Gore grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the tempo before finding Khadaijia Brooks for a layup. Two possessions later, Gore blocked a shot and found Brooks again underneath for a layup that pushed the lead to eight. The Herd ended the game on a 9-1 run and kept North Texas without a field goal in the final 8:22.
“We really reacted to the ball and made it tough for them to get comfortable inside,” Kemper said. “Then, once we did that, it turned into guards against guards and, at the end of the day, we were able to get it done. I’m not sure anyone really knows how we are winning, but we’re winning with defense. We guarded pretty well again — 32 percent defensive field goal percentage. Our team knows that’s how they have to get it done.”
Marshall led from start to finish, scoring the game’s first nine points as the defense set the toney. Gore scored seven points during that run and had 10 points and three steals after one quarter.
North Texas used the play of Trena Mims off the bench to chip into the lead in the second quarter, eventually cutting it to a two-point game. Gore answered with a basket before picking up her second foul and going to the bench with 1:45 left in the half. Marshall’s depth stepped up. Princess Clemons knocked down a 3-pointer off a feed from Kristen Mayo before senior guard Taylor Porter got a steal and hit Taylor Pearson on the wing for another 3-pointer that stretched the lead to 36-26 at the break.
Gore opened the second half with five straight points that pushed the lead to its largest margin at 15 before North Texas went on a 13-2 run to close the gap.
Porter added nine points, three assists and three steals in the balanced effort, who also got nine from Mayo as part of a performance in which seven players scored at least five points.
North Texas (11-11, 4-6 C-USA) was led by 14 points from Grace Goodhart and 13 off the bench from Mims.
Marshall returns to Cam Henderson Center for a huge Conference USA matchup at noon on Saturday when the Herd takes on first-place Rice.
Check www.herald-dispatch.com for more photos.