— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall proved sharp at the foul line when necessary, converting 13-of-15 down the stretch to turn back Middle Tennessee 98-93 in a Conference USA game Saturday.
The Thundering Herd snapped a four-game losing streak, improved to 7-7 in the league, 14-13 overall and assured itself a spot in pod 2 for the second phase of league play. The Bonus Four games start next Saturday. Other game dates are Thursday, Feb. 28; Sunday, March 3; Wednesday, March 6; and Saturday, March 9.
No. 6 in pod 2 is North Texas (8-6), which defeated the Herd in the regular season. The Herd is No. 7, FAU is No. 8, FIU is No. 9 and LA Tech is No. 10.
Marshall’s home games will be against FAU and FIU. The Herd will travel to North Texas and LA Tech.
The Herd is assured a spot in Frisco and can be the 6th-10th seed — no lower or higher. Marshall swept the Florida schools at home and lost at Louisiana Tech.
Once all 18 games have been completed, 12 teams, based on their overall conference record within their respective group, will be seeded in the conference tournament.
The 2019 Air Force Reserve C-USA Basketball Championships will be held March 13-16 at Ford Center in Frisco, Texas. Marshall is defending tournament champion.
As for Saturday, C.J. Burks paced Marshall with 20 points. Jon Elmore added 19, Rondale Watson 17, Jannson Williams and Taevion Kinsey 13.
Middle Tennessee’s top point producer Antonio Green led all scorers with 31 points. Reggie Scurry added 24, Donovan Sims 12 and Karl Gamble 11 for the Blue Raiders, who have lost three in a row.
Late in the second half, the Herd held an 80-78 lead. Elmore then nailed a three-pointer and Burks a dunk to push the advantage to 85-78 with 2:15 to play.
Marshall would get its final 13 points at the foul line as the Blue Raiders had to foul late. Elmore would go 9-for-9 and 11-for-11 for the game. George would make both attempts while Burks and Williams each hit 1 of 2 in the closing seconds.
Middle Tennessee still leads the overall series 11-6.