Johnson’s Layup Give Herd Win over Owls

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
HOUSTON – A layup by senior guard Shaquille Johnson with 2.3 seconds to play broke a tie and gave the Marshall men’s basketball team a 63-61 win over Rice Saturday in Tudor Fieldhouse.

Johnson finished with a season-high 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and scored the last two baskets for the Thundering Herd which improved to 11-4 overall. Marshall also improved to 2-0 in Conference USA for just the second-time ever. Rice fell to 9-7 overall and 0-1 in C-USA.

“He’s playing with confidence as a senior,” Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said of Johnson. “I thought our two seniors guards played really well for being on the road.”

Marshall’s other senior guard, Damier Pitts, scored a game-high 18 points including 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range.

The game featured the top two rebounding teams in C-USA and the nation’s top rebounder in Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi. Marshall outrebounded the Owls 45-27 including 16 offensive boards which were converted to 18 second-chance points.

Kazemi, who entered the contest averaging 12.4 rebounds per game, was held to just four boards. Marshall’s leading rebounder on the season, Dennis Tinnon, recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“He’s a warrior,” Herrion said of Tinnon. “He continues to get better and better as he gets a better understanding of conference play.”

Marshall held its largest lead of the game, 22-15, midway through the first half. The Herd held on to a 29-27 lead at halftime. For the game, Marshall was 5-of-8 from the free throw line, all coming in the first half.

In the second half, Rice took a 59-56 lead with 5:37 to play in the game. A 15-foot jump shot by Pitts and a three-pointer by Johnson gave the Herd a 59-58 lead with 3:55 remaining.

With the game tied 6-1-61, Rice had possession with just over a minute to play. The Herd defense held Rice to a missed shot and had the ball with a chance to reclaim the lead with 38 seconds to play. However, Pitts committed a turnover in the backcourt and sent Kazemi to the line to shoot two free throws. He missed both free throws with 11 seconds remaining to set up Johnson’s game-winning layup.

“It’s a good win for us against a very improved Rice team,” Herrion said. “That’s a good club and they are going to win a lot of games.”

Marshall shot 41.3 percent from the field including 40 percent (6-15) from three-point range.

Rice was led by Omar Oraby with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Marshall’s DeAndre Kane recorded seven points, eight rebounds and six assists.

The Herd will next be in action on at 8 p.m. ET. on Wednesday at UAB.
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