Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
Marshall Gains Bye in CUSA Tournament
Photo: Herd Zone

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – For the first time since the Marshall Thundering Herd men's basketball team defeated West Virginia in 2011, the Herd defeated a ranked team when it claimed a 76-67 victory over the No. 24 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Saturday evening in the Murphy Center.


“That was a great win for this team and program,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “That’s the first time we’ve beat a top 25 team in a while. We beat Middle earlier this year, but that was before they moved into the top 25. I’m proud of the kids. I thought they moved the ball extremely well. Now that it’s over, we have to move on and get ready for the Texas trip.”


With the win, Marshall finishes the regular season with a 21-10 (12-6 C-USA) record, while No. 24 Middle Tennessee dropped to 24-6 (16-2 C-USA). The win gives the Herd the four seed and a spot in the Conference USA Tournament quarterfinals. The win also was the first time Marshall defeated a ranked opponent since it defeated No. 21 West Virginia on Jan. 19, 2011.


“I might have had a heart attack if we lost that and knew UTSA won their game, but I don’t have to worry about that,” D’Antoni said. “The kids were super and played extremely hard. Middle is so well-coached and they play so hard. Even if they make a mistake, they make you pay for one right after that. They are very deserving of a top 25 spot.”


Junior guard Jon Elmore scored a game-high 23 points, pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists, while junior guard C.J. Burks added 20 points and five rebounds. Freshman forward Jannson Williams collected his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Middle’s Brandon Walters scored a team-high 20 points.


The two sides went back-and-forth for most of the first half until a layup from junior guard Rondale Watson gave the Marshall a 24-23 advantage with 5:12 left in the first half. The Herd piled on from there after a layup from Williams and three-pointer from Elmore gave MU a seven-point lead at the 3:45 mark to make the score 30-23. The Herd kept it comfortable for the rest of the first half and closed out with a 36-33 advantage.


Marshall finished the first half shooting 15-of-29 (51.7 percent) from field goals, 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) and 4-of-5 (80 percent) at the charity stripe. Elmore led Marshall with 10 points, while Burks added eight points and Williams contributed seven points and six rebounds. The Herd held Middle Tennessee to 13-of-31 (41.9 percent) FGs, 3-of-7 (42.9 percent) from behind the arc and 4-of-12 (33.3 percent) shots at the free throw line.​

The Blue Raiders were quick to tie the game up at 40-40 with 17:48 left and the two sides traded baskets from there. Marshall finally secured the at the 8:28 mark when Elmore sunk a pair of free throws to give Marshall a 56-55 advantage. From there the Herd never trailed again. Marshall’s lead jumped to eight points when Elmore sunk another free throw with 1:12 left in the game.

With less than a minute left, the Blue Raiders’ Tyrik Dixon drilled a jumper to trail only by five, but the Herd made four free throws and Middle never scored again.

Marshall finished the game shooting 47.2 percent on field goals, 18.2 percent from behind the arc and 81.5 percent from free throws. Middle hit 41.7 percent of its field goals, 22.2 percent of its three-pointers and made 50 percent of its free throws. The Herd outscored the Raiders in the paint, 36-28, from second chance points, 9-3, fast break points, 4-0, and bench points, 26-9.

“It goes to show you that if we come out and ready, we can hang with anyone,” D’Antoni said. “Our bandwagon is always open. If you jump on late, we’re happy to have you.”


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