Historic Herd Win Over Wichita State

Updated 26 weeks ago Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
Historic Herd Win Over Wichita State
Photo: HERDZONE

By Chuck McGill

HerdZone.com

Box Score (PDF)

SAN DIEGO – There is an NCAA tournament postgame tradition in which a jumbo cardboard bracket is hauled into the winning team’s locker room, and a representative of that team peels off a sticker with its school name to show the team advancing to the next round.

For the first time in school history, the Marshall men’s basketball team huddled around that bracket. The Thundering Herd’s head coach, Dan D’Antoni, placed the sticker on the Round of 32 as his players jumped up and down and roared with delight.

“Movin’ on!” D’Antoni yelled.

Indeed, Marshall became the 28th No. 13 seed since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to defeat a fourth seed in the Round of 64, an 81-75 triumph against Wichita State on Friday here inside the Viejas Arena on the campus of San Diego State University.

“I like these guys,” D’Antoni said. “Fun to be on a trip with them and they’re fun to watch play and it’s real fun when we win, so we’re going to try and do that one more time.”

Marshall next plays this Sunday at the same tournament site, and will go for its second NCAA tournament win in school history. The Herd had been 0-5 in its five previous trips to the Big Dance.

“It’s a great feeling – it’s surreal right now,” Marshall guard Rondale Watson said. “We are looking forward to this next game.”

The Herd (25-10) overcame a 7-point deficit early in the second half to shock the Shockers, an American Athletic Conference team that finished the regular season ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Marshall trailed by 1 point, 70-69, with 4:54 left before outscoring Wichita State 12-5 the rest of the way.

Junior forward Ajdin Penava had the go-ahead basket with 3:50 left, and then true freshman guard Jarrod Westnailed a 3 to make it 74-70 with 3:10 remaining. A steal and dunk by C.J. Burks made it 78-72 with 2:00 left, before the Shockers pulled within 3 points, 78-75, on a 3 by Conner Frankamp with 46 seconds left.

Wichita State, coached by former MU assistant Gregg Marshall and assisted by former Herd head coach Donnie Jones, never scored again.

In the home stretch, there were several long delays to determine possession and time on the clock, and the energy in the packed arena had the young Herd roster bubbling over with excitement.

“The bench was celebrating; everybody was hyped,” Marshall junior guard Jon Elmore said. “The crowd was hyped, but there was still time left on the clock. They could get a 3; we could turn it over. So we came together, settled everybody down and told them we had to keep making plays and we did a great job of that. We closed out the game.”

Elmore, a first team All-Conference USA selection and the C-USA tournament MVP, put on a show in front of a nationally televised TNT audience. He tied the school record for points in an NCAA tournament game with 27 (Cebe Price, 1956, vs. Morehead State), making 6 of 13 shots and 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He also had a team-high four assists.

“Is it typical?” D’Antoni said in response to a media member’s question about Elmore’s game. “He did it all year long.”

Penava scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds before fouling out. Burks added 13 points and freshman forward Jannson Williams added 10 points and seven rebounds.

The lead changed 14 times and was tied six times. West opened scoring with one of his two 3-pointers, and the Herd and Shockers exchanged blows from there.

While Elmore electrified the arena and nation with an array of spin moves, deep 3s and dazzling passes, there were a pair of alley-oops in the first half that generated buzz on social media. Williams was on the receiving end of a pass from West to make it 18-12, Herd, early in the first half. Then, Watson elevated for a difficult two-handed alley-oop on a pass from Elmore that made it 26-21 with 6:54 left of the first half.

Now Marshall will hang around San Diego for two more days and try to make it to the second weekend of the three-week for the first time in school history. A lack of precedent hasn’t thwarted this Herd team’s quest, though, as the program has won 25 games for the first time since 1986-87, reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in 31 seasons, won its first Conference USA championship and, now, the program’s first NCAA tournament game.

“This team we have here,” Watson said, “will be a team that Marshall will always remember.”

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