By Clay Bailey
MEMPHIS, Tenn. —
The Memphis Tigers knew they would get a different Marshall team than the one that lost by 56 earlier in the week at Southern Mississippi.
And, while the Thundering Herd never led against Memphis on Saturday afternoon, it took a pair of late free throws from Tigers guard Chris Crawford to help Memphis hang on for a 73-72 victory over Marshall.
“After we heard what happened (against Southern Mississippi), we were all confused because we knew that Marshall was one of the top teams in the conference,” said Tigers forward Adonis Thomas, who had 15 points. “We knew how competitive they were. Maybe we overlooked them a little bit (Saturday), but at the same time, we knew the type of competitive team they are. They were going to bring it hard because they wanted to beat Memphis.”
And Marshall never went away, particularly in the second half, when the game at times got much tighter than the Memphis faithful anticipated, reflecting on the Thundering Herd’s 102-46 loss to Southern Mississippi on Wednesday. Marshall coach Tom Herrion spoke highly of his team’s effort.
“We came in here with every expectation to win, and we’re disappointed with the loss,” Herrion said. “But I’m proud of my kids. They were resilient. They did a great job to keep battling.”
Memphis was only able to get comfortable after Crawford’s two free throws with 1.9 seconds left gave the Tigers (16-3, 5-0 Conference USA) a 73-69 buffer. Crawford’s free throws were followed by a 3-pointer by Marshall’s DeAndre Kane as the horn sounded. It wasn’t enough as the Thundering Herd (9-11, 2-3) dropped their third game in the last four.
Joe Jackson had 16 points and five assists to lead the Tigers, who won their 10th straight. Shaq Goodwin chipped in 11 for Memphis.
“We will take it. The caravan moves forward,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said.
Kane led the Thundering Herd with 22 points, converting nine of his 18 shots, while D.D. Scarver, who helped key Marshall’s second-half rally, finished with 20. Dennis Tinnon had nine points and nine rebounds for the Thundering Herd.
Marshall, which is second in the conference in rebounding, controlled the glass 39-33, including 17 off the offensive glass, leading to 20 second-chance points.
“They’ve got a big lineup, so those guys were going to hit the glass hard,” said Thomas. “We expected them to hit the glass, that’s part of their offense. If they are not making shots, they’re going to hit the glass hard to get second-chance points. Defensively, we didn’t box out every time, and that allowed them to get some second-chance points.”
Memphis shot 54.2 percent (13 of 24) in the first half Saturday but could manage only a 38-33 lead. Thomas, who has struggled offensively in recent games, had 12 points in the frame.
Kane led the Thundering Herd with 11 points, missing only two of his seven shots. He was the only Marshall player connecting with any accuracy, as the Thundering Herd shot 13 of 32 (40.6 percent), including 3 of 11 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range.
Memphis built the lead to double digits with eight unanswered points, capped by an offensive rebound and put-back from Tarik Black.
But Marshall answered with its own 13-3 rally to erase the Tigers’ lead. Kane had a couple of baskets and Scarver added a 3-pointer.
The game remained close as Memphis suffered through foul problems, and Marshall continued to chip away at the lead in the second half
Scarver had seven early points in the half, and his 3-pointer pulled Marshall within 49-47.
While Memphis didn’t relinquish the lead, it never created much of a buffer either, holding the lead at five to seven points through the middle stages of the second half.
Marshall was able to stay close by taking the ball to the rim, creeping within four points on several occasions.
“We didn’t do a good job of containment, which allowed them to get into the paint, which forced us to have to help, which put us in a deficit in a rotation situation,” Pastner said of Marshall’s ability to get to score inside and record second-chance points.
When Elijah Pittman scored inside with 3:10 left, Marshall trailed only 66-64. Less than a minute later, Scarver connected on a three, and the Thundering Herd was within 68-67.
Memphis still held a 71-69 lead, but Geron Johnson missed two free throws with 20.5 seconds left, giving Marshall a chance.
Pittman’s 3-pointer with 4 seconds left was short, leaving Marshall no choice but to foul. Crawford hit both of the ensuing free throws, enough of a lead for Memphis to allow the uncontested 3-pointer by Kane at the end.
While not a victory, Herrion continued to talk about his team’s effort and how much better they played compared to the disaster at Southern Mississippi.
“In a loss, which we don’t accept, I think we showed about our character coming back,” Herrion said, later adding: “We clearly showed a lot of character in the last 72 hours.”
Tinnon 3-12 2-2 9, Spikes 1-3 0-0 2, Scarver 7-15 3-3 20, Manning 0-0 2-2 2, Kane 9-18 2-4 22, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Goff 3-7 0-2 6, Hanner 1-1 0-0 2, Pittman 3-8 2-4 9. Totals 27-65 11-17 72.
Jackson 6-9 3-4 16, Thomas 4-9 5-8 15, Goodwin 3-5 5-6 11, Stephens 3-4 1-2 8, Johnson 0-3 0-2 0, Hall 0-0 0-0 0, Barton 2-6 0-0 6, Crawford 3-8 2-2 9, Black 3-6 2-4 8. Totals 24-50 18-28 73.
Halftime—Memphis 38-33. 3-Point Goals—Marshall 7-19 (Scarver 3-7, Kane 2-6, Tinnon 1-2, Pittman 1-3, Martin 0-1), Memphis 7-16 (Thomas 2-4, Barton 2-5, Crawford 1-2, Stephens 1-2, Jackson 1-2, Johnson 0-1). Fouled Out—Goff. Rebounds—Marshall 39 (Tinnon 9), Memphis 33 (Black 7). Assists—Marshall 15 (Kane 4), Memphis 15 (Jackson 5). Total Fouls—Marshall 23, Memphis 16. A—16,386.