Basketball

Herd Men Falls Into 3-Way 2nd Tie at MTSU, 83-74

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Marshall went into the game with Middle Tennessee hoping to bounce back from a close loss at UAB. Instead, the Herd loss tossed Marshall into a tie for second with the Blue Raiders as well as Louisiana Tech with two games to go. With UAB win over WKU, the Herd’s loss also handed the Blazers the outright Conference USA Regular Season Championship.

Marshall rallied from 15 down with a 21-3 run midway through the second half, but Middle Tennessee overcame the loss of both starting guards to shoot 52.4% from three and broke a two-game losing streak with the 83-74 win over the Herd. Marshall is 0-of-5 for games at MTSU.

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James Kelly (24) had 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Ryan Taylor (25) fouled out for the 11th time, scoring 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in just 18 minutes in the loss to Middle. (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

The Thundering Herd falls to 15-14 on the year, 11-5 in league play. Marshall finds itself tied for second with two other teams with two games to go in the Conference USA regular season after the loss at the Murphy Center. Middle Tennessee improves to 19-9, 11-5, earning a tie for second with the win. Louisiana Tech also earned a tie for second with a win over Rice, 88-69, to improve to 22-7 and also 11-5 in the league. Old Dominion sits just one game back in fifth at 10-6 (17-12 overall, games at North Texas and at Rice) while UTEP is next at sixth with a record of 9-8 (17-13 overall, with one game left with UTSA) after an 88-78 loss at Charlotte.

Middle Tennessee improves to 19-9, 11-5, earning a tie for second with the win. Louisiana Tech also earned a tie for second with a win over Rice, 88-69, to improve to 22-7 and also 11-5 in the league. Old Dominion sits just one game back in fifth at 10-6 (17-12 overall, games at North Texas and at Rice) while UTEP is next at sixth with a record of 9-8 (17-13 overall, with one game left with UTSA) after an 88-78 loss at Charlotte.

Old Dominion sits just one game back in fifth at 10-6 (17-12 overall, games at North Texas and at Rice) while UTEP is next at sixth with a record of 9-8 (17-13 overall, with one game left with UTSA) after an 88-78 loss at Charlotte.

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Jon Elmore runs the Marshall offense against Quavius Copeland’s (24) defense, and Elmore scored 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting, 2-of-7 from three and 6-of-8 from the line. (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

Middle Tennessee will be on the road for the final weekend of the season, playing at FIU and Florida Atlantic. LA Tech will be at Marshall for a huge game on Thursday, then finishes at WKU. Old Dominion sits just one game back in fifth at 10-6 (17-12 overall, games at North Texas and at Rice) while UTEP is next at sixth with a record of 9-8 (17-13 overall, with one game left with UTSA) after an 88-78 loss at Charlotte.

The top four teams in the league get a double-bye, only playing three games to have a chance to win the title. The Tournament runs March 8-12 in Birmingham, Ala. at Legacy Arena in the Birmingham-Jefferson County Convention Complex – just blocks from the UAB campus where the Blazers won the C-USA title and NCAA bid last year as a No. 4 seed.

Coach Danny D’Antoni thought the Herd left some of its energy at Thursday’s 95-91 loss to UAB, missing a chance to tie for first place, and possibly expected to win easily with guards Jacob Ivory (third time this year, out for season) and Giddy Potts (last game, tba on return) were out with concussions. Potts was leading Middle in scoring with 15.0 points per game and filled in at point guard with Ivory out.

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Terrence Thompson was called on for 16 minutes of play tonight (with Taylor again in foul trouble), and the sophomore scored 4 points, with a rebound, assist and steal in the loss at MTSU. (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

“We got there, got beat when we lost at UAB with a chance to win the conference, and we watch Middle come out on Senior Night, breaking a two-game losing streak and battling to get into a tie for second,” D’Antoni said. “These lapses are going to come when teams don’t have enough history with winning, and I told you it would not be a straight line for our team to get there (where winning is a regular thing).

“The 21-3 run in the second half … that’s us playing. It’s like running a race, you don’t run very fast early and get behind, then you run real hard to catch up but you don’t have the energy at the end to push for a win. But we have two home games still to go before the tournament. We will work harder in preparation and we need all Herd fans to get out for these two final games, about 9,000 of them each night to fill up the Henderson Center.”

Marshall shot the ball well overall, hitting 25-of-51, 49%, hit only 7-of-24 from three (29.2%) and junior Stevie Browning – who had a career-best 23 points in the loss at UAB – was only 1-of-7 for the evening before fouling out with two points. But defensively, the Herd let a team missing its two starting guards shoot 49.1% from the field (28-of-57) and 52.4% from three, making 11-of-21 for the game. Marshall’s had been holding C-USA opponents to around 31%.

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Guard Stevie Browning (2) of Marshall looks for rebound position alongside Middle Tennessee guard Edward Simpson in the loss to the Blue Raiders. (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

Both teams also shot well from the foul line, as the Herd hit 17-of-23 (73.9%) while the Blue Raiders hit 16-of-24 (66.7%), but Middle had a big edge in rebounds with 36 to just 27 for the Herd.

Despite that edge, Marshall outscored Middle in the paint, 34-to-28, tied them in points off turnovers (15-15) and second-chance points (9-9), won the fast break points (6-2) and lost the bench points by only one.

“They played zone tonight, and we have got to prepare better,” D’Antoni said. “I know these kids will bounce back when we get home. They had gotten beaten by a rival (WKU won on Thursday at Middle in the “100 miles of hate” rivalry that came from C-USA from the two rivals just 100-miles apart on I-65) and we were traveling. Middle is a good ball club, and we outscored them in the paint – see what happened?” D’Antoni said with a laugh, as his offense is not the typical “sit the center and forwards down low in the post.”

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Senior Justin Edmonds played 12 minutes at Middle, his hair flying around as he works the offense past the defense of MTSU guard Jaqawn Raymond. (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

Marshall came out with no fire early, falling behind by 10 points with 13:21 left in the first half. The Herd trailed by 15 at halftime, 49-34, hitting just 3-of-12 from three. Marshall allowed Middle to shoot 19-of-33 from the field (57.6%) and 8-of-12 from three (66.7%) and turning the ball over six times to just two for Middle Tennessee.

The Herd made a valiant comeback in the second half, erasing a lead that ballooned to 56-40 with a run of 16-0 run that tied the game at 56-56 with11:59 to play. Marshall would take its first lead at 8:23 to play on a James Kelly 27-foot three, going on a 21-3 run over the last 8:53 and holding MTSU to one field goal in nine shots over that stretch.

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James Kelly hit this three at the 14:21 mark of the first half, then hit another three for the lead with 8:23 left in the game, but the Herd would not hold it in the 83-74 loss at Middle Tenn. Kelly was 9-for-16 from field, 2-of-6 from three and 1-for-3 at the line. (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

But a pair of free throws by Harris gave the Raiders a 65-63 lead, and moments later Buford hit a jumper to put Middle up four, and an Upshaw three gave his team another double-digit lead of 10 points, 77-67, with 2:24 to go.

Leading the way for the Herd was senior James Kelly with his 13th double-double of 21 points and 14 rebounds, also picking up a block and a steal but having five turnovers, most of any Herd player. Also, in double figures for Marshall was sophomore point guard Jon Elmore, with 18 points, three rebounds, and two assists.

Junior Ryan Taylor, who scored 12 points and had four rebounds, three assists, two steals and no turnovers in just 18 minutes, fouled out with about 4:38 on the second half clock. It was the 11th time this season Taylor has fouled out and he is only six fouls away from topping the 111 fouls he had as a freshman as he now has 106 fouls this season with a minimum of three games left this season (two regular season games and, at least, one in C-USA tournament game).

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Redshirt frosh CJ Burks played 23 minutes last night, hitting 3-of-4 shots for 6 points, a rebound, an assist and two steals (tying Taylor for the team lead in that stat). (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

For Middle Tennessee, sophomore guard Perrin Burford scored 21 points on his average of 11.0, hitting 8-of-12 from the field and 5-for-7 from the line. Also, in double figures were senior forward Darnell Harris with 18 points (averages 12.2), including a perfect 4-for-4 from three for the 39% shooter over the regular season.

Junior forward Reggie Upshaw scored 14 points and pulled a team-best nine rebounds and junior guard Alondis Foote scored 10 points off the bench, hitting 4-of-7 and 2-for-3 from three. Sophomore guard Edward Simpson had nine points and five rebounds and in just his eighth start, and senior guard Jaqwan Simpson added eight points, four assists, and three steals.

The Herd hosts the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Thursday and finishes the season on Saturday night with Senior Day for James Kelly and Justin Edmonds honored before the finale with Southern Miss. Both games are 7 p.m. starts, and the Tech game will be broadcast on the American Sports Network (Huntington and Putnam County Comcast channel 133).

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The Herd (standing for National Anthem) was “back in black” for the first time on the road, and after going 2-0 at home in the new uniforms, lost 83-74 to Middle Tennessee. Marshall will try to finish second in C-USA with a win Thursday over LA Tech at the Henderson Center. (HI photo courtesy of Middle Tennessee Athletics/Brent Beerends)

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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