Chuck Landon: Turnovers, hot Elmore key MU win
It was supposed to be a blowout.
And it was.
It just took Marshall University a little longer than expected to hammer Mount St. Mary’s, 98-75, before 6,050 appreciative fans Wednesday night in Cam Henderson Center.
Credit Mountaineers’ coach Dan Engelstad for that. He had “The Mount” so prepared, so ready to play, so composed that Marshall coach Danny D’Antoni was on his feet midway through the first half.
It wasn’t because D’Antoni’s back was bothering him.
Instead, it was because the Herd’s 3-point shooting was bothering him.
So, what happened to change all that?
No. 1, Marshall’s defense happened. No. 2, Jon Elmore happened.
By halftime, Marshall had harassed “The Mount” into 15 turnovers. Now, here’s the important part. Those 15 turnovers became 23 significant points.
“I thought we came out with great energy,” said Engelstad. “The turning point is when they started turning us over. The floodgates opened a little bit.”
Guess who came pouring through. Who else? Elmore.
First, the senior guard hit a 3 from left of the top of the key. Next, it was a trey from from the left wing. Then, Elmore pulled up on a fast break and nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing. Next, he hit a stop-and-pop trey from the left wing. Then, came the coup de trey. Elmore dribbled the first-half clock down for about 12 seconds and, then, drove hard to the left corner and nailed a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining.
So, by halftime Elmore had scored 18 points in 18 minutes by going 6 for 8 from behind the arc.
“I thought our focus wasn’t good early on,” said Elmore, who finished with 24 points, eight assists and only one turnover. “We made a lot of improvements in the second half, we weren’t doing in the first half.”
Except for foul shooting.
Although Marshall shot 52.4 percent on 3-pointers in the first half and 50.7 percent overall for the game, the Herd made only five of 14 free throws (42.2 percent).
But that’s the small picture.
The big picture is forcing 24 turnovers and outscoring an opponent 33-6 in the points off turnovers category.
“Twenty-four turnovers is great,” said sophomore guard Jarrod West, who finished with 14 points and four steals. “I thought we locked in during the second half - especially the first seven minutes.”
That’s when the Herd blew the game completely open.
“When the threes started falling,” said Engelstad, “it spread our defense out.”
As a result, Marshall tied the school record for 3-pointers with 19. And, to be honest, probably should have broken the record.
“We tried to break that record,” said D’Antoni with a chuckle. “We had about five shots at it.”
But, speaking of treys, D’Antoni also made a point of praising Mount St. Mary’s.
“They played very, very hard,” he said. “They shot the lights out early. We’ve got to do a little better coming out of the gate.”
The Herd still finished with four double-figure scorers. Besides Elmore’s 24 points, C.J. Burks had 16, West 14 and Jannson Williams 10. The unsung hero was senior Rondale Watson, who had 10 assists, eight rebounds and five points in 25 minutes of action.
“He was the player of the game,” said D’Antoni. “After about 12 minutes we started making some shots. It’s hard to beat us when we’re making shots.”
It’s pretty much impossible.
Just ask Mount St. Mary’s.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.