Basketball

Updated 3-13: Middle Tennessee Tops Men In C-USA Championship, 83-72, Notes From Game

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HUNTINGTON — Marshall once again won three games to get to the final, and just like in 2012, the Herd did not have the energy to win the title. Last time, it was Memphis at the FedEx Forum. This time, the team was again from Tennessee and was winning another Conference USA title.

Giddy Potts matched his season high and set a Conference USA Championship record with 30 points to lead Middle Tennessee to its second straight Conference USA Tournament championship with an 83-72 victory over Marshall on Saturday night. Potts scored seven straight points to help the Blue Raiders (30-4) pull away with a late 15-5 run, and by hitting 3-of-8 from three, his 74 threes are the fourth most in Middle history for the junior.

It is the tenth time in league history a No. 1 seed has won the Championship, Middle joining Cincinnati and Memphis. Middle is the first team to win two consecutive titles since Memphis won three, 2011-13.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 935 Loss to MTSU 83-72 C-USA Championship 3-11-17, Elmore fights thru

John Elmore battles through two Middle Tennessee defenders, Aldonis Foote (left) and Xavier Habersham, in the first half of the Conference USA Championship which was won by the Blue Raiders 83-72. (photo courtesy Conference USA)

“Marshall played at such a high level for their fourth game in four days, competed hard defensively and made us work hard for things. They made some great shots and had great ball movement,” Middle Coach Kermit Davis said. “You’ve got to give Dan (D’Antoni) and Marshall a ton of credit. We beat a good team that was playing really well. Our team really shared the ball. It was just really exciting – I’m sure a fun game to watch on TV.

“There were a lot of great offensive plays. It’s quite an honor to get 30 wins and go back to the NCAA Tournament. Our team will enjoy this. We’re looking forward to tomorrow to see where we’re going. Our team thinks we’ve got a lot of basketball left and that’s our mindset going forward.”

The Thundering Herd, who sat a record in the semifinals by scoring 19-of-35 threes against Louisiana Tech, ended up with another three record. The Herd was 45-of-122 from three, topping a record for both previously held by Houston since 2010. Houston was the last club to have won four games and the title, the only one in C-USA history coming in 2011.

“It’s always great to be in the championship game, I wish we could have won it. I thought our kids played good enough to be in it in the end but things didn’t go our way,” Marshall Coach Danny D’Antoni said. “That’s the hardest thing about coaching is that things don’t go your way sometimes but that’s life.

“I hope Kermit Davis and Middle Tennessee carry the C-USA banner a long way in the NCAA Tournament.

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 935 Loss to MTSU 83-72 C-USA Championship 3-11-17, Penava dunk

Sophomore center Adjin Penava dunks the ball on defender Antwain Johnson for the Herd in the C-USA Championship. (photo courtesy Conference USA)

D’Antoni thought the physical play of middle, with his limits in quality bigs, was the big difference in the game. “They were very physical. Right now we’re not deep enough in our program. We go from three seniors to freshmen and sophomore. They have more bigs than us and they’re physical.

“We got 20 wins this season and we’re in the finals of the conference, the hardest part is taking a team that is maturing against a team that is mature like Middle Tennessee.”

The Thundering Herd (20-15) pulled within two points at 53-51 with 12:51 left before Potts and Middle Tennessee answered with what proved the decisive run. But at that point, D’Antoni drew a technical foul with 5:12 left protesting a foul call against Penava, as the sophomore would later foul out and senior Ryan Taylor played in foul trouble for most of the game.

Potts made one of two technical free throws to push the Blue Raiders’ lead back to double digits. Upshaw, who drew the foul, made both of his attempts from the line to make the game 57-51, and Herd was never close again.

Potts, the tournament MVP, made three 3-pointers and grabbed eight rebounds for Middle Tennessee while making seven of eight free throws. C-USA Player of the Year Jacorey Williams, an Arkansas transfer, added 17 points and has 588 points in this year, sixth most in Blue Raiders history. Senior Reggie Upshaw scored 15 with eight boards. Upshaw is fourth in MTSU history in career points (1,540).

MUBSKB 2016-17 Game 935 Loss to MTSU 83-72 C-USA Championship 3-11-17, Loop for 3

Austin Loop was 4-of-9 from three, part of the Herd setting a new record for threes made (45) and attempted (122) in the C-USA tourney, breaking a record set by Houston in 2010. (photo courtesy Conference USA)

Sophomore CJ Burks came off the bench to lead Marshall with 16 points. Senior Stevie Browning finished a strong tournament with 14 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, scoring 78 points in four games.

Austin Loop got all 12 of his points on four 3-pointers. Jon Elmore, the league’s leading scorer, had 12 points despite the 2-of-9 3-point shooting. Adjin Penava had 10 points.

Browning punctuated the half with a contested 3-pointer with five seconds left for Marshall and added another in the final second. Browning also tied his assist career mark with six tonight, tying the six he dished in a win over UTEP in the 2016 Tournament. Browning and Elmore were named to the All-Tournament team from Marshall.

“We’re disappointed but we played hard and gave it all we had,” Browning said. “We have nothing to hang our heads about but we have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Marshall missed its first 10 3-point attempts after setting a school and C-USA tournament record with 19 makes in a semifinal win over Louisiana Tech. The Herd hit only 2-for-12 in the first half and finished with 10-of-32 from beyond the arc, only 31.3%. Overall, Marshall shot 39.1% (30-56) and Middle hit 30-of-56 (53.2%).

“We didn’t shoot as well as we do,” Elmore said. “The whole tournament we shot well until tonight. We’ve had a good year and it hurts going out like this.”

The Blue Raiders out-rebounded Marshall 41-35, but only outscored MU in the paint, 38-to-30 and were 6-6 in second chance points with the Herd. The Blue Raiders had a 13-point lead cut to 40-32 by halftime, then won by 11.

Marshall defeated two of the top three seeds to make the title game, beating No. 11 FAU in the opener, then a 1-point win over No. 3 ODU and a 93-77 win on Friday afternoon against No. 2 Louisiana Tech.

Marshall is runner up

The Herd gathers in the post-game for the runner-up trophy, only the second time in C-USA the Herd has made it to the championship game. Stevie Browning and Jon Elmore were named all-tournament. (photo courtesy Big Green)

Middle Tennessee awaits its NCAA Tournament destination after arriving in Birmingham with an already-strong RPI of 37. Middle pulled an upset in last year’s tournament, beating Michigan State, 90-81.

The Herd was hoping for its first NCAA berth since 1987, when the Herd lost an opening round game to TCU in Charlotte, N.C. The Herd has played in the CIT in 2010 and 2011, going 1-2, and lost to Middle in its last NIT bid in 2012, on the road at MTSU for the game as a 5-seed.

2017 Conference USA All-Tournament Team

Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee (MVP)

Reggie Upshaw, Middle Tennessee

JaCorey Williams, Middle Tennessee

Stevie Browning, Marshall

Jon Elmore, Marshall

THUNDER NOTES

  • Marshall tied or set a slew of Conference USA tournament records, including team scoring, team 3-pointers, team 3-pointers attempted and team assists.Stevie Browning connected on a 3-pointer to close scoring, which gave Marshall 318 points in four tournament games. That ties the 2005 Memphis team for best total team scoring output in tournament history.

    The Herd hit 10 3-pointers in Saturday’s championship game, giving the team a record-breaking 43 made 3s in the tournament. The previous record was held by Houston, 37, in 2010. MU also smashed the tournament record for 3s attempted. The previous record was also held by the 2010 Houston team with 97. Marshall attempted 122 in four games. Marshall broke a 20-year-old C-USA tournament record for team assists, which was previously held by Marquette (58 in 1997). The Herd recorded 64 assists in four games.

    MU coach Dan D’Antoni and senior guard Austin Loop hit milestones in Saturday’s championship. The C-USA final was D’Antoni’s 100th game coaching at Marshall, while it was Loop’s 100th consecutive game started.

    Loop’s four 3-pointers in the championship pushed his season total to 112, which is tied for the eighth-best single-season performance in league history. Loop is tied on the single-season list with UAB’s Robert Vaden. Loop is now in the top 200 in NCAA history in career 3-pointers with 293. Loop is tied for No. 199 on the list with Siena’s Scott Knapp (1998-2001) and Dayton’s Brian Roberts (2005-08).

    Ryan Taylor pushed his career rebounding total to 985, which puts him No. 5 on C-USA’s all-time list. Taylor passed Tulsa great Jerome Jordan (983, 2007-10) duringSaturday’s championship.

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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