Basketball

Big Green Holds Off Mean Green, MU Men Win 106-104, Clinch No. 6 Seed for C-USA Tourney

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HUNTINGTON — Ryan Taylor wanted the ball, and Coach Danny D’Antoni wanted him to have it. Taylor made the most of those opportunities, leading the Herd from being down as much as 13 to a two-point win, putting the team on his back for the final 6:44 of the game.

It was “Senior Night” at Marshall for Taylor, Austin Loop, and Stevie Browning, and the three of them were playing, well, maybe below expectations in the first half when North Texas (with just two league wins all year, and eliminated from C-USA Tournament) was leading, 53-45, at halftime. Browning had foul trouble and hadn’t scored, Loop hit 2-of-5 from three for six points and Taylor had 12 points but only two rebounds and Marshall was down.

Then the seniors with many of the other players got the message from assistant coach Scott Rigot at halftime, as he, as D’Antoni put it, Rigot, “gave one heck of a speech at halftime and the kids responded well in the second half.” D’Antoni, fighting the flu for the second week, was “too weak” to give the speech, but raves about Rigot’s halftime talk.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 931 3-4-2017 Beat NTex 106-104, Ryan Taylor scores in first half on his way to 29 pts and 10 boards

Ryan Taylor was unstoppable the last 6:44 of the game, scoring 14-of-17 points for the Herd, pulling six rebounds and leading the Herd to the 106-104 win over North Texas. MU earns the No. 6 seed, plays No. 11 FAU on Wed. at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. in Birmingham, Ala. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

The seniors responded, and the Herd went on to win 106-104 over North Texas, who finished not like a team that is 8-22, 2-16 and dead last in C-USA. FIU, the other team not going to the tourney, upset UAB in Birmingham on the Blazers home floor (helping the Herd to get the No. 6 seed in the tournament next week). Stevie Browning finished with 14 points in the final regular season game, six rebounds and five assists. Austin Loop, still shaking off the flu, finished with 12 points on 4-of-11 from three, and added six assists — a new career high in his 109th game, 28th all-time — and had two assists plus a steal, his 83rd.

Taylor led the Herd to the win with a game-high 29 points — 17 of which came in the second half — and with 10 rebounds he picked up his 12 double-doubles of the season and the 39th of his career, tops at MU and C-USA. Taylor scored 14 of Marshall’s final 17 points by hitting 4-of-5 field goals, 6-of-10 from the line and pulled six of the 41 total rebounds pulled by the Herd.

All of that came from the 6:44 mark on the clock until the end of the game, his last free throw going down with 4.4 seconds to set the final at two points, 106-104, after he gave Marshall with lead, 105-104, with a bull-in-the-paint layup with 6.9 seconds left. With 1:26 left in the game, and the Herd down 104-100, Taylor scored the final seven points after the Her was behind, pushing the team to the 106-104 win.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 931 3-4-2017 Beat NTex 106-104, Ryan Taylor after score for the lead and win with Aleksa Nikolic (21) and Jon Elmore (33)

Ryan Taylor celebrates after scoring the go-ahead bucket for Marshall to give the Herd the lead for good in the 106-104 win over the Mean Green. Also cheering for the shot are (21) Aleksa Nikolic and (33) Jon Elmore. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

Marshall improved to 17-14, 10-8 in C-USA and, thanks to the FIU upset of UAB, the Herd finished as the sixth seed. That means Wednesday night at 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. here in Huntington), the Herd will play No. 11 Florida Atlantic, who finished 6-12 in league play – losing to Middle Tenn. in the final game, 93-59 – and is 10-19 overall. With a win, the Herd would play No. 3 seeded Old Dominion, who was beaten at UTSA on Saturday, 72-55, and finished 19-11, 12-6 in C-USA, at the same times as Wednesday. Marshall beat ODU in Huntington, 90-86 in overtime, then lost 86-65 at ODU. LA Tech, Charlotte or UAB would be the team Marshall sees in the semifinals, losing 94-90 at LA Tech, splitting with UAB (94-78 loss at UAB, 74-59 win at home) and sweeping Charlotte (110-93 here, 93-89 there).

Marshall beat ODU in Huntington, 90-86 in overtime, then lost 86-65 at ODU. LA Tech, Charlotte or UAB would be the team Marshall sees in the semifinals, losing 94-90 at LA Tech, splitting with UAB (94-78 loss at UAB, 74-59 win at home) and sweeping Charlotte (110-93 here, 93-89 there). That means the Herd would also not have to play Middle Tennessee (who swept Marshall, 69-57 there and 97-86 here) or UTEP (who won at the Henderson Center, 91-68) except in the championships.

“All year long I was waiting on Ryan,” MU coach Dan D’Antoni said. “I don’t think he had the senior year that I wanted to him, probably that he wanted to have. He played his tail off that second half.”

For Taylor’s part, it was simple. “I just didn’t want to lose,” he said.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 931 3-4-2017 Beat NTex 106-104, Adjin Penava battles AJ Lawson for rebound with help coming from Aleksa Nikolic (21)

Sophomore Adjin Penava battles with North Texas frosh AJ Lawson (12) for the rebound, and Herd teammate Aleksa Nikolic (21) and another Herd player goes up in the mix behind Penava and Lawson. MU out-rebounded the Mean Green, 41-31. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

Marshall also forced a pair of turnovers in the final 25 seconds to spoil North Texas’ upset bid. With 24.7 seconds left, North Texas’ Ja’Michael Brown fouled Taylor, who hit 1-of-2 to push the Herd within 103-104. On the inbounds, the long arms of the Herd’s redshirt sophomore forward Aleksa Nikolic came into play, blocking Brown being able to inbound the ball to the point he threw the ball away. Taylor would score the two to give the Herd the lead, off of that. Next, CJ Burks pressured J-Mychal Reese into a turnover when he dribbled out of bounds on the side while trying to get the ball up the court. The Mean Green’s Allante Halston fouled Taylor, who hit one of two for the win by the Big Green of Marshall.

“I think we stepped it up a little bit,” MU guard Jon Elmore said. “We had to go and make it a play or it looked like they were going to win. Guys made plays, got aggressive with them, got a little physical and forced a couple of those turnovers.” Elmore was one of those stepping up, finishing with 19 points, three rebounds, a team-high six assists (and the Herd had 27 assists on just 36 made baskets, as every player who played at least 12 minutes in the game had one), and also had two steals.

Nikolic had only played in five C-USA games this year, and got nine minutes at UTSA on Jan. 26, then nine minutes a month later at ODU on Feb. 23. Tonight, he was huge for the Herd, with 19 minutes of playing time leading to six points, two rebounds, five rebounds (tying a season high vs. Toledo back in Dec.) and also had a block and a steal.

“Alex, he never quit on us, he kept working,” D’Antoni said of the sophomore from Serbia who missed all of last year with an eye injury in a collision early in the 2015-16 season. “We will need more bodies at the C-USA Tournament, so Alex can help us there.”

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 931 3-4-2017 Beat NTex 106-104, Jon Elmore does the wrap-around to Derail Green (as Woody looks on)

Jon Elmore goes for the wrap-around bucket on Derail Green of the Mean Green of North Texas. Elmore scored 19 and pushed over the 1,000-point mark in the win. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

Also playing well were Burks, as this sophomore came up with six pints, two rebounds, five assists and one steal, nearly matching Nikolic and both had big forced turnovers late. Junior Terrence Thompson started and finished with 12 points, five rebounds, an assist and two steals, while sophomore Adjin Penava had eight points, two rebounds, an assist and two blocked shots and Christian Thieneman played four minutes on the defensive side when D’Antoni was subbing Taylor in and out with four fouls.

Taylor came into Saturday’s game in the top 10 in scoring – passing George Stone (1,723, 1965-68, a teammate of D’Antoni’s for back-to-back trips to the NIT) at No. 7 tonight, with 1,737 points — which also ties him with Charlotte’s Jobey Thomas at No. 12 all-time in C-USA in scoring —  No. 4 in rebounds with 961 (just needs 12 to tie No. 3 Bob Burgess (973, 1959-62) — 288 assists, No. 14, 109 steals, breaking a tie with AW Hamilton and now No. 20 in steals,116 blocks with just seven needed to tie No. 6 Nigel Spikes (123) and leads in double-doubles with 39.

He also passed Skip Henderson (441) and is No. 4 in free throws made (444) and passed Leo Byrd and is No. 2 now in free throws attempted with 654, and No. 1 is John Taft (734 FTA, 1988-91). He played in his 124th game tonight, tying Tirrell Baines (124, 2007-11) for No. 4, and will tie No. 3 Henderson with his 125 game in the first round of the C-USA tourney on Wednesday night in Birmingham.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 931 3-4-2017 Beat NTex 106-104, Ryan Taylor not to be denied by Derail Green (11) and J-Mychal Reese (52) on the way to 29-10 dbl-dbl #39

Ryan Taylor grinds against North Texas No. 11 Derail Green and No. 52 Ja-Michael Reese on his way to 29 points. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

“I always knew I wanted to go to college and play basketball and have a fun experience, but I never would’ve thought I would have these numbers and been part of something this special,” Taylor told HerdZone.com’s Chuck McGill. “The university has so many great players who have come through here. For me to be mentioned with those players is an honor.”

The Herd blocked six shots, had seven steals, out-rebounded the Mean Green 41-to-31 (and 17-to-8 on the offensive glass). Marshall used those offensive rebounds to outscore North Texas 28-to-15 on second chance points.

(Ed. Note: See Herd Insider main page for both men’s and women’s C-USA Basketball Championship information, posted earlier tonight).

Taylor and his teammates will get a chance to continue the journey in Wednesday’s first round at Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala. Marshall will face No. 11 seed Florida Atlantic (10-19, 6-12) at 9 p.m., the last of four opening day games. If the Herd wins, it will face third-seeded Old Dominion (19-11) in Thursday’s quarterfinals, also at 9 p.m.  Marshall defeated Florida Atlantic, 89-72, on Jan. 2. The Herd split regular season games against ODU, winning in Huntington in overtime and losing by 21 points on the road.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 931 3-4-2017 Beat NTex 106-104, Terrence Thompson flexs after fouled on score

Terrence Thompson flashes the guns after drawing a foul on AJ Lawson of North Texas, as (50) Shane Temara looks on. (Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry)

Taylor finished regular season game with 29 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two assists. He and his fellow seniors combined for 55 points – Browning finished with 14 points and Loop added 12 points. Taylor was 10-for-14 from the field, 0-for-2 from three and 9-of-15 from the line, 60 percent for the 64% free-throw shooter on the season.

“I think that Loop will always be remembered here. He’ll always hear it when he comes back: ‘Loooooooop!’” D’Antoni said. “Ryan will always be remembered here. And Stevie Browning, a guy, (from) Division II (to the) SportsCenter Play of the Week twice, he’ll be remembered for playing here. That’s all you can ask for at this level.

“All year long I was waiting on Ryan. You best ball is played at the end of the year, not the beginning. He played his tail off in the second half. Scott Rigot told him, ‘If you just crash glass you will own it’. Ryan responded well.”

Elmore was more specific what was ahead for his team. “I think we have the momentum going forward, we’ll be ready,” Elmore said. “We plan on winning four games in four days and going to the NCAA tournament.”

MUBSKB Senior Day 2017

It was a successful Senior Night for Browning, Taylor and Loop, as they combined for 55 points, 22 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 blocks and one steal. (HerdZone.com photo)

THUNDER NOTES:

Ryan Taylor played in his 124th career game, tying him with Tirrell Baines for No. 4 on the all-time list at Marshall. His next game in the C-USA Tournament will see him tie No. 3 Skip Henderson (125 games, 1984-88).

Taylor also moved past two players and tied another on Conference USA’s career scoring list. He passed Louisiana Tech’s Alex Hamilton (1,722, 2014-16) and UCF’s Keith Clanton (1,718, 2009-13), and then tied Charlotte’s Jobey Thomas (1,737, 1999-2002) for No. 12 in league history. Taylor scored 29 points, which pushed his career total to 1,737. Taylor passed George Stone (1,723) for No. 7 on the program’s career scoring list and will turn his sights on Tamar Slay at No. 6 next, with 1,792 points (1998-2002).

Taylor made 10 field goals, breaking a tie with Leo Byrd (593) for No. 11 on the career list. Taylor has 603 career field goals  on 1,232 attempts, also No. 11 all-time.

Taylor grabbed 10 rebounds, which puts him into a tie for No. 7 all-time in Conference USA history. Taylor and Memphis’ Robert Dozier (2006-09) are tied with 961 career rebounds. He now is 12 rebounds from No. 3 Bob Burgess, who had 973 boards (1959-62).

On senior night, guard Austin Loop started his 96th consecutive game and his 109th game. He will tie Charlie Jones (110 games, 1979-83) at No. 27 in games played at Marshall

Loop attempted 11 3-pointers, which moved him into the top 10 on the all-time list in Conference USA. Loop now has 686 career 3-pointers attempted, which moved him past three players: UAB’s Mo Finley (679, 1999-2004), UAB’s Robert Vaden (679, 2008-09) and Cincinnati’s Steve Logan (682, 1999-2002).

Loop made four threes in the game, giving him 280 made in his career, No. 1 and counting since the UTEP game earlier this year when he passed former No. 1 Tamar Slay (251 threes, 1998-02). He is only four threes from tying C-USA’s No. 5 three-shooter, Travis Diener of Marquette, who had 284 made threes in his career. No. 4 is Rodney Carney of Memphis with 287.

Loop’s four 3-pointers tonight give him 99 this season, a new No. 3 ranking in a single year for Loop and passing Ronald Blackshear (98, 2002-03). No. 1 (130 3s, 1996-97) and No. 2 (111 3s, 1995-96) both belong to Keith Veney.

With 12 points tonight, Loop now has 1,053 points in his MU career. He ties Mark Patton at No. 43 of the 52 1,000-point scorers at Marshall.

Jon Elmore’s six assists boosted his season total to 190, which puts him in a three-way tie for the seventh-best single-season in Herd history. Elmore is tied with Sam Henry (1981-82) and Mike D’Antoni (1970-71) on the list. His 5.98 assist average (335 career assists in 56 games) is fourth best in a career in Conference USA.

Elmore joined Taylor, Browning (including points scored at Fairmont State before coming to MU) and Loop in the 1,000-point club tonight with 19 points pushing him to 1,010 points tonight. Hi is now No. 48 on the Herd’s list of 52 1,000-point scorers, passing John Brannen (1,008, 1995-97), Carlton King (1,001, 1996-99) and Bob Burgess (1,000, 1959-62).

Stevie Browning’s two 3-pointers pushed his career total to 105, passing Shaquille Johnson (104, 2008-12) and Harold Simmons (104, 1989-93) on the program’s all-time leader board. Browning is No. 20 on the career list.

Browning had 890 points scored with the Herd in 63 games (an average of 14.1 ppg). With the 726 points Browning scored at D-II Fairmont State, he now has 1,616 points in four seasons of basketball with the Falcons and the Herd.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

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