FRISCO, Texas — When Marshall’s 20-point lead threatened to vanish, Jon Elmore’s 3-pointer stopped the Southern Miss comeback.
Now the Herd is headed back to the Conference USA tournament final.
Elmore had 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists during an 85-75 victory on Friday at the Star. Fourth-seeded Marshall (23-10) will face third-seeded Western Kentucky (24-9) on Saturday for the league’s automatic bid.
“It was a great team win and we’re happy to get back to the championship,” Elmore said. “Hopefully we’ll end it a little different than last year.”
Southern Miss (16-18) trailed 47-27 at the half but had scored 11 unanswered to pull within 71-65 when Elmore’s jumper gave the Herd breathing room.
“That’s kind of the role I see myself in,” the point guard said. “Coaches have done a great job all year just kind of coaching me and helping me understand the game in certain aspects, especially when the games getting a little tighter or getting a little stagnant and we’ve taken a couple bad shots.”
All five Marshall starters scored in double figures. Jannson Williams scored 17 and C.J. Burks added 13 points, six assists and six rebounds. Ajdin Penava and Jarrod West chipped in with 12.
“Obviously, we’re just glad to win and advance,” Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said. “We’re going to ride on the saddle with these young people. They played well, especially the first half, I thought we were outstanding. The second half, we have to play better with a lead.
“In the end, we’re excited about winning and getting a chance to play in the conference championship for the second year in a row. Hopefully, we can pull this off and get into the NCAA tournament.”
Cortez Edwards scored a career-high 30 points for Southern Miss.
“It’s disappointing, but once you give up a lead like that you can only blame yourself,” Edwards said.
Western Kentucky reached the title game by beating second-seeded Old Dominion 57-49. The Hilltoppers swept the regular-season series from Marshall 112-87 in Huntington and 85-74 in Bowling Green.