HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall relied on its defense to snap and eight-game losing streak to UAB, defeating the Blazers 74-59 Thursday night at the Cam Henderson Center.
No, that is not an alternative fact.
D’Antoni’s squad, which has never been known for its smothering defense, limited UAB to 37.9 percent shooting from the field and forced 21 turnovers. The Herd converted those turnovers into 27 points.
“They hurt us at UAB with [William] Lee popping back, they would pick and he would pop back. We worked on that in practice and going four-four rotation getting our guard over there. We did a good job of cutting that off tonight, then when he went inside, we had Penava there and it’s very tough to get over his reach.”
Lee, who eventually fouled out, was limited to just five points for the Blazers.
“We’re still offensive-minded, but it seemed like we really locked up on defense tonight and held them to 59 points. I don’t think we’ve held them to under 60 [points] in a long time,” Elmore said.
With the game tied at 34-34 at halftime, Marshall used two runs of 7-0 and 8-0 in the second half to pull away from UAB.
Sophomore Ajdin Penava posted his first double-double finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds, combined with Elmore to score all eight points during the run to extend the Herd’s lead to 51-42 with 11:22 to play.
“It was definitely a big thing. [Lee] is a good player and if you can get their best players off the court, it definitely gives us more space, especially in the offense because he’s one of the leading shot-blockers in the conference.”
Offensively, Marshall short 40 percent from the floor and was just 7-for-27 from three-point range. With those offensive numbers, usually Marshall is on the short side of the scoreboard.
“But the way we played defense tonight, I think we could have beaten a lot of teams shooting like that,” Elmore asserted. “Like coach said earlier, that was uncharacteristic of us. We kept chipping away, we kept sticking to our X’s and O’s and it paid off whether we were making shots or not.”
Now, Marshall must turn its attention to Middle Tennessee (23-4, 13-1), which defeated Marshall 69-57 on Jan. 12 in Murfreesboro.
“We have a quick turnaround with Middle Tennessee coming here that is an awfully good team. This was a great start. We have a lot of work ahead of us [and] we have to get ready for Middle Tennessee,” said D’Antoni.
“Middle is a great team, they’re on a great run right now,” Elmore said. “I think if we keep playing like we have the past two games, we’ll be ready for them. We know what they got and we’ve seen them multiple times, so we’re going back to the drawing board tomorrow and get a little bit better and prepare for them. Hopefully everybody will come out again and pack the Cam and get the atmosphere. We’re definitely not scared of them. We’re going into the game, we think we can beat them and we want to win. We’re going in full-steam-ahead, ready to go.
Tip-off is 6 p.m. Saturday night at the Cam Henderson Center.