BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A pair of junior guards posted 20-point performances for third-seeded Marshall men’s basketball (17-16) in a hard-fought 99-90 loss against second-seeded Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA Championship Semifinals on Friday Night at Legacy Arena at The BJCC.
The loss eliminated the Thundering Herd from the tournament, while the Blue Raiders advanced to Saturday’s championship game.
“For this game, I felt like we learned how hard you have to play to advance in a tournament,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “In their press, we were soft. We didn’t attack it strongly like we will and we can. Things are bright and things are looking good. We’ll be back next year.”
Austin Loop (South Webster, Ohio) hit three 3-pointers and went 7-of-7 from the free throw line en route to his fourth game of the season scoring 20 points. Stevie Browning (Logan, W.Va.) joined Loop at the 20-point mark, posting a career-high nine field goals made. Ryan Taylor (Indianapolis) and Justin Edmonds (Albion, Mich.) had 13 points apiece, and senior forward James Kelly (Ann Arbor, Mich.) rounded-out double-figure scoring for Marshall with 11 points. Taylor had a team-high seven rebounds.
There were four ties in the first five minutes and no lead larger than three through the first eight minutes. Marshall used an 8-0 run, including four points from Browning, to take a largest lead of 18-13 at 10:41. The Herd kept the lead until the final five minutes, when a 13-0 run gave MT a 31-22 advantage at 4:34. Middle Tennessee followed that with a 6-0 run two minutes later to reach a lead of 39-27 at 1:53. Loop hit two free throws to set the halftime score at 39-29.
Middle Tennessee exploded for 16 points in the first three minutes of the second half, reaching a largest lead of 18 points (52-34) at 16:57.
From there, the Blue Raiders were unstoppable. They were dangerously accurate from the field, going on spurts of nine made field goals in a row and unanswered runs of six points or more. The Blue Raiders held on to a double-figure margin until the final four seconds of the game, when Edmonds hit a three to make it 98-90. Karl Gamble made a free throw to set the final score at 99-90.
The Blue Raiders out-shot the Herd, 58.5 percent to 47.3 percent, and shot 76.9 percent (20-of-26) in the second half. MT had a 40-34 advantage on the boards, and held Marshall to zero fast break points.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Junior forward Ryan Taylor (Indianapolis) hit a go-ahead layup with three seconds remaining in regulation to seal an 87-85 victory for third-seeded Marshall (17-15) over sixth-seeded UTEP (19-14) in the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals on Thursday night at Legacy Arena at The BJCC.
With the win, the Thundering Herd advanced to the semifinals against No. 2 seed Middle Tennessee on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network. It will be Marshall’s first appearance in the C-USA Semis since the 2011-12 season, and only the second in program history.
“For Marshall, it’s a step at a time,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been in a position to where we can be relevant in a tournament. Sometimes we weren’t as smooth and did some things that were uncharacteristic but I think as this tournament goes, if we can keep advancing, we’ll season as a team.”
Taylor led five double-figure scorers for the Herd with his sixth double-double of the season, on 21 points and 14 rebounds. He has 27 such performances for his career. Classmate Austin Loop (South Webster, Ohio) followed with six triples for 18 points, setting a school record for C-USA Tournament play.
The previous record was four 3-pointers by Shaquille Johnson against Southern Miss on March 9, 2012. Senior James Kelly (Ann Arbor, Mich.) had his 15th double-double of the year with 13 points and 11 rebounds. It was the second time in school history that two Herd players recorded double-doubles in the same C-USA Tournament game.
DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts did so against Houston on March 9, 2011. Sophomore Jon Elmore (Charleston, W.Va.) had 12 points, while classmate Terrence Thompson (Durham, N.C.) posted a career-high 11 points off the bench.
After trailing by as many as six, starting 1-of-8 from long range and losing Kelly at the 16:44 mark to foul trouble, the Herd hit three of its next four 3-point attempts en route to an 18-18 tie at 12:25.
Marshall used a 7-0 run from 7:33 to 6:21 to claim its first lead since 3-0, up 34-31. Thompson reached his career high for scoring at the 7:21 mark with his 10th point.
The game tied for the fourth time, 36-36, with 3:57 left before the break.
From that point, the Miners went off on a 7-0 run to match its largest lead of six (42-36) at 2:46. A layup from Taylor and a free throw by Thompson put the halftime score at 42-39. The Miners out-shot the Herd, 52 percent to 37 percent.
UTEP opened the second half with four straight points to reach its largest lead of seven, up 46-39 at the 17:58 mark. However, the Herd would not be silenced.
A 7-0 run put Marshall into a tie, 55-55, capped by an Elmore 3-pointer at 14:24. There were six lead changes over the next three minutes before the score tied again at 67. At that point, Taylor put forth five consecutive points to give Marshall a 72-69 advantage at 8:01.
The Herd either kept the lead or tied with UTEP for the following six minutes, until the Miners took an 83-81 advantage with free throws by Omega Harris with 1:35 remaining.
The teams traded baskets in the paint, and then a foul sent C.J. Burks (Martinsburg, W.Va.) to the free throw line, shooting two. He made them both to tie the game at 85 with 38 seconds left on the clock. Harris took possession and attempted a layup, but Taylor blocked it at the 16-second mark and Burks recovered the rebound, setting up a final play for Marshall.
Elmore gave the ball to Taylor at the top of the key, who drove and finished as the clock showed three seconds remaining, giving Marshall an 87-85 lead. The Miners attempted a final play but Loop made a steal, and the Herd escaped with the comeback victory.
Thirteen 3-pointers made by the Herd were the most allowed by UTEP this season. It was Marshall’s third win of the year when being out-shot by its opponent (47.1 percent to 43.5 percent) as well as its third win when trailing at the half (3-10).