Herd Never Trails in 73-68 Win at SMU

Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
Herd Never Trails in 73-68 Win at SMU

DALLAS – Senior Damier Pitts led all players with 20 points as the Marshall men’s basketball team never trailed in a 73-68 win at SMU Saturday at Moody Coliseum.

The Thundering Herd improved to 16-10 overall and 7-5 in Conference USA while the Mustangs fell to 11-16 overall and 2-10 in C-USA.

Pitts scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, a half in which Marshall was outscored 54-48. The offensive production was a total opposite of the first period where the halftime score was 25-14. The Herd shot 47.9 percent from the field including a 54.5 percent mark in the second half. Marshall held SMU to 27.3 percent shooting in the first half, but the Mustangs shot 62.1 percent in the second half and finished at 47.1 percent for the game.

“I was really thrilled with our defense in the first half,” said Marshall head coach Tom Herrion. “We really locked in, guarded well and rebounded well. In the second half we played a step slow it looked like. We didn’t do a good job of finishing. Give them credit because they kept coming at us and made big shots down the stretch to make it more interesting than we wanted to.”

Pitts was 6-for-11 from the field including 5-for-9 from three-point range. His five three-pointers tied a career high and five steals set a new personal best.

“He can really shoot the basketball,” Herrion said. “But also in that same session, we really moved the ball.”

Sophomore guard DeAndre Kane recorded 14 points, a team-high eight rebounds and four assists. Nigel Spikes and Dennis Tinnon rounded out the double-digit scorers for Marshall with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Marshall opened the game with a 15-11 lead before scoring 10 unanswered points to extend its lead to 25-11 with 3:33 remaining in the first half.

After trailing 25-14 at halftime, SMU scored the first three points of the second half. Pitts scored nine unanswered points with three three-pointers in successive possessions to push the Herd lead to 34-17 with 17:17 to play.

The Herd’s largest lead of 49-29 came after a Tinnon jump shot with 10:27 remaining. SMU then slowly chipped away at the Marshall lead. The Mustangs went on a monotonous 34-22 run in a span of just of nine minutes to cut the Herd lead to 69-63 with 1:22 remaining.

SMU’s Robert Nyakundi made a three-pointer with 21.2 seconds remaining to cut Marshall’s lead to 72-68. The Herd then had trouble inbounding the ball and turned it over, one of Marshall’s 12 for the game. Nyakundi fired a three on SMU’s next possession with 15.4 seconds to play, but it missed. MU’s Dago Pena was fouled and made one of two free throws to all but assure the win.

“We fouled too much early in the second half and put them in the bonus,” Herrion said. “They aren’t a team that shoots free throws often. Now you are changing the tempo and they are scoring with the clock stopped and that’s not good.”

London Giles led four SMU players in double-figures with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.

“I’m pretty pleased and proud of this group to get a win on the road,” Herrion said. “Every road win, especially this time of year, you take it, put it in your gym bag and get on the plane and go home.”

Marshall will play three of its final four regular season games at home starting with Houston Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

NOTES: Marshall leads the all-time series 7-0… SMU’s 14 first half points was a season-low for a Herd opponent in a half which bested the previous low of 20 scored by Jacksonville State on Nov. 13… Pitts’ career-high five steals eclipsed the four he had at Old Dominion on Nov. 21, 2009… There were 11 total fouls committed in the first half and 32 in the second half… Three players fouled out, Robert Goff for Marshall and Jalen Jones and Cannen Cunningham for SMU… SMU’s 54 second half points was the most it’s scored in a half all season.

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