EL PASO, TX— The Thundering Herd was paced sophomore guard Chris Thomas’s 21 points as 14th seeded Marshall upended No. 11 seed Florida Atlantic 63-59 in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.
The Herd started the game fast and led by as many as 17 points in the first half but FAU found its touch shooting late in the period and closed the gap to seven points at the break.
In the second half, three-pointers by Chris Thomas and Kareem Canty pushed The Herd’s lead to 11 points with 8:32 remaining. But the Owls battled back. FAU went on a 9-0 run and with 3:52 to play cut Marshall’s lead to 55-53. However, that is as close as the Owls would get.
“I told their players after our game in Huntington that if they could stay together regardless of what their record was, they could make some noise.
Thomas and Tamron Manning each hit free throws down the stretch to keep the Owls from mounting a comeback.
“I had just missed two free throws. My team just told me to put it behind me and go to the line and take a deep breath. That’s what I did and knocked two free throws down to put us up and get our lead comfortable.
Marshall forced 15 turnovers and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, which was enough to overcome a poor night shooting. The Herd was just 24-of-63 from the field and 5-for-20 from three-point range.
“I thought defensively we stepped up tonight and challenged ourselves by playing man-to-man,” assessed Herrion.
The Herd now advances to play No. 6 Old Dominion today at 4:30.
“We played over there a couple of weeks ago. We played with a lead for the majority of the game. They’re a guard oriented team and are very athletic and we’ve got a big test tomorrow afternoon.”
Middle Tennessee State awaits the winner Thursday afternoon.