HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– Marshall University Thundering Herd Men’s Basketball earned its first Conference USA home victory on Thursday night, an 80-68 decision over the FIU Panthers inside the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington. Marshall advances to 8-14 overall, 2-5 in Conference USA, while FIU drops to 11-10 overall and 3-3 in conference play.
FIU’s Tymell Murphy played just over 39 minutes and recorded a career-high 29 points in the losing effort for the Panthers. Marshall was led by 19 points from sophomore Chris Thomas, 15 of those coming in the second half.
Redshirt freshman forward Ryan Taylor says getting a win at home was a welcome sight.
“It felt good winning on our own floor with our own crowd. It was a relief after the tough rough trip, and we want to take this into Saturday [against Florida Atlantic],” says Taylor.
Marshall got a big spark in terms of offense when sophomore guard Tamron Manning knocked down a three-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire. His made three cut FIU’s largest lead of six at the 14:11 mark of the first half, down to three.
“I didn’t even look at the shot clock until someone yelled ‘Shoot.’ And then I looked up and saw two seconds on it, so I just let it fly and luckily I hit it,” Manning says of his first made three of the game. He finished with a career-high 15 points.
The game was largely a back and forth contest, being tied at halftime at 34. At the break, Herd point guard Kareem Canty had zero points, but still impacted the first half with four assists and just one turnover. Overall, Canty says the Herd turned things around as compared to prior games.
“We rebounded, we hit our free throws – the scorers stepped up,” Canty says. “Chris [Thomas] played his game and Tamron [Manning] got his shots down early. I didn’t turn over the ball as much and everyone just did what we needed to do as a team. This is a fresh start.”
The second half featured seven ties and six lead changes in the first nine minutes of play before the Herd took the lead for good at 54-53 with 11:02 to go via a Canty made three-pointer.
Part of what helped the Herd hold on to win was the stellar 60.7 percent shooting from the field in the second half, but also a new-look 1-3-1 zone defense the Herd used. Marshall head coach Tom Herrion says the zone was effective because everyone bought into it.
“In the second half the zone was really good to us and a lot of guys stepped up tonight,” Herrion says.
In postgame interviews, everyone echoed the relief of getting a win after some of the adversity the Herd has had to fight through this season. Taylor says that while he and his teammates may still be listed as freshmen and sophomores, the Herd is battle tested and does not act like freshmen and sophomores anymore.
“We are not inexperienced anymore,” says Taylor. “We are not freshman anymore and Chris [Thomas] isn’t a sophomore anymore. Listening to the people who have been here has helped us, because we learn day in and day out. We are finally starting to gel and click and we have experience now.”
The Herd will have Friday to prepare for a visit from the FAU Owls on Saturday at noon. On Thursday night, the Owls fell at Charlotte 62-53.
That game Saturday is the Austim Awareness game for the Herd, where Tom Herrion will wear an Autism Speaks lapel pin as part of a movement within college basketball he helped start alongside Towson head coach Pat Skerry. Herrion’s 8 year old son, Robert, has autism, and in addition to Herrion and Skerry donning the pins on Saturday, other coaches around the country such as Jim Boeheim, John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski.
— Braxton Crisp