HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – C.J. Burks scored 25 points, Ajdin Penava made a splashy return to the lineup and Marshall ended a five-game losing streak against Middle Tennessee State with a 73-63 victory Thursday night.
The Herd (13-6, 4-2) got another well-rounded performance from C-USA’s leading scorer Jon Elmore (19 points, eight assists, five steals), and Penava had 17 points, six blocks and seven rebounds after missing back-to-back games.
“We’ve won a lot of games in this league on toughness and rebounding,” said Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis said. “They out-toughed us. They got to 50-50 balls; I thought they made hustle plays.
“Getting (Penava) back changes their whole team. He’s one of the most improved players in college basketball.”
Giddy Potts and Antwain Johnson scored 15 points each for Middle Tennessee (13-5, 5-1). Nick King, the No. 2 scorer in the conference at 21.8 points per game, added 14 points and nine rebounds.
“Our kids didn’t back down. I was proud of them,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’ve been sick and hurt for a while. You can see the potential we have. Just keep on building.”
Burks sank five 3s and Penava gave Marshall a second-half jolt with 12 points.
“It felt great,” Penava said. “I was happy to be back on the court with the guys and compete. It’s been too long of a break for me.”
Marshall led 36-34 at the half before falling behind briefly in the second half. A 12-2 run keyed by Burks’ shooting gave the Herd the lead for good.
“The last two weeks we’ve been beat up, sick, injured, hurt. Everybody has been struggling a little bit,” Elmore said. “We’re starting to get everybody back together and see what we’re capable of when we have all of our pieces. That’s one of the top teams in the league and we just handled them pretty good.”