MU overcomes emotions, FAU on Senior Day
HUNTINGTON — She said “Yes.”
Jon Elmore put a unique spin on Senior Day when the Marshall University point guard got down on one knee at midcourt Saturday and proposed to his girlfriend, former Thundering Herd women’s track and field athlete Tori Dent, from Scott Depot, West Virginia, during a ceremony honoring the seniors before a men’s basketball game with Florida Atlantic University in Cam Henderson Center.
“She did,” Elmore said when asked if Dent accepted his proposal. “If she said no I was just going to pack it up and head on out, we weren’t playing the game. Coach (Dan D’Antoni) gave me permission, he said you can just call it quits.
“But, she said yes. I’m very lucky. It was emotional. I teared up a little bit.”
College basketball teams often have difficulty gathering themselves on Senior Day, and that was the case for Marshall after the program’s senior players — Elmore, C.J. Burks, Rondale Watson and Christian Thieneman — were introduced at midcourt along with student manager Danny Feck to an announced crowd of 7,097 spectators.
FAU (17-14, 8-10 Conference USA) seized the opening with leads of 11-0 and 19-2 before
Marshall got itself together and rolled to a 76-61 victory in the final regular-season game for teams who move into the C-USA Tournament beginning Wednesday in the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
Marshall, the defending champion, continued its strong play and is the hottest team in C-USA with five straight wins. The Herd (18-13, 11-7) is seeded No. 6 for the conference tournament with a first-round game at 10 p.m. Wednesday against No. 11 Rice. The Rice Owls (13-17, 8-9) played at home Saturday night against Charlotte.
D’Antoni put the four seniors in the starting lineup with 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Jannson Williams.
The Herd misfired on its first seven field goal attempts and was in a 9-0 hole when 5-11 sophomore guard Jarrod West entered the game. West is a strong defender who helped limit FAU leading scorer Anthony Adger, a 6-1 senior guard averaging 15.9 points, to just 12 on 4-for-13 shooting. West also contributed a career-best 17 points, snagged four rebounds, delivered three assists and made three steals.
“I just do my best to make everything they do hard,” West said.
Elmore, a Charleston native, had 16 points and 10 rebounds, extending his C-USA career record totals to 2,505 and 748 respectively, in his 19th career double-double game. He is the 69th player in college basketball history with 2,500 points and is two assists shy of becoming the first one ever with 2,500 points and 750 assists.
Burks, a guard from Martinsburg, West Virginia, scored 11 for 1,787 in his career and passed Ryan Taylor (2013-17) for eighth place on the program’s all-time list. Freshman forward Taevion Kinsey also had 11 points.
FAU freshman guard Michael Forrest led the Owls with 15 points after hitting for 32 in a Jan. 17 game at Marshall when the Herd won at home, 96-84. Senior forward Xavian Stapleton added 13.
Neither Marshall (40.0 percent) nor FAU (41.1 percent) shot particularly well, but the Herd gained an edge with 10-for-28 shooting on 3-pointers and by making 18 of 24 free throws while the Owls were 8 for 8.
Marshall outrebounded taller FAU 40-30.
“Obviously, a little emotional,” D’Antoni said about how the game began. “We started out a little slow. At the first timeout they came over and I gave them some words of inspiration. They came out fired up, went after it, moved the ball.
“Defense was excellent. We took them out of everything they wanted to do.”
After rallying from 17 points down, Marshall made up ground quickly and pulled even at halftime, 28-28, then outscored the Owls in the second period, 48-33. The Herd’s biggest lead was 74-56 on Watson’s dunk of an Elmore lob feed with 57 seconds remaining.
The 17-point comeback was Marshall’s largest this season.
“We’re not finished yet,” Elmore said. “Our goal is to go down there to Frisco and win four games in four days and go back to the Big Dance.”
C-USA men’s tournament
No. 6 MARSHALL vs. No. 11 RICE
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Ford Center at The Star, Frisco, Texas
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM