— by David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Add another scoring record to Jon Elmore’s resume and add another game to the 2018-19 season for the Marshall University men’s basketball team.
Elmore’s three-point play with 10:24 left in the game put the senior guard from Charleston at No. 1 in career scoring for the program. He needed 20 points going into the first-round Collegeinsider.com Tournament and finished with 22 to help the Thundering Herd hold off IUPUI, 78-73, in front of 3,725 fans inside Cam Henderson Center and drop Skip Henderson to No. 2 in career scoring.
Henderson, 6-foot-2 guard who played for Marshall from 1984-88 and proved to be a force in the Southern Conference, had the No. 1 scoring spot with 2,574 points.
“It feels good. It’s the hardest 20 points of my life,” Elmore said. “I’ve been lucky to have great teammates. They’re like brothers. The coaches got my back. Everybody believed in me from day one. I do whatever it takes to win for Marshall.”
Marshall (20-14) saw its hopes to repeat as Conference USA champion end with a quarterfinal loss to Southern Miss in the league tournament. The Herd then accepted a bid to the CIT.
IUPUI (16-17) is a member of the Horizon League. The Jaguars played with the Herd right until the end. Senior C.J. Burks made three of four free throws in the final 43 seconds to secure the win and finish with a game-high 25 points and move into the No. 5 spot in career scoring for the Herd. Freshman Taevion Kinsey came off the bench to score 16 points and grab seven rebounds, second to the team-high 10 from Elmore.
The Herd will play again next Tuesday, but won’t know its opponent until later in this week.
“C.J. played great early,” Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni said. “TK is that quiet, efficient type player.”
D’Antoni got the usual effort from Elmore. He also praised the Herd’s crowd. Fans gave Elmore a standing ovation when he converted the record-setting three-pointer.
“Jon was terrific,” D’Antoni said. “He tried to do too much early. I told him to make them play your shots. Besides Jon, the crowd. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. “They gave us that extra when we needed it.”
Elmore, who earlier this season became the all-time scoring leader in Conference USA, said he received a letter from Henderson (unknown location in Georgia) prior to the game. Henderson has had numerous transgressions and run-ins with the law ever since he left the school in 1988. He’s spent time in jail.
“It was great for Skip to reach out to me for what I did on the court,” Elmore said. “He could’ve been mad. He said he was proud and glad I was doing it. It was really cool to hear him talk about it, the mistakes he made and for us not to cross that line. He experienced it. It was a wakeup call to stay straight.”
This was the first post-season game for IUPUI since 2010. Camron Justice led the Jaguars with 22 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double to match Elmore. He is from Hindman, Ky.
“It was a battle,” Burks said. “The second half we came out with more energy.”
“Our goal is not just to win games, but win the trophy,” Elmore said.
Jaguars coach Jason Gardner said his team more than stuck around to the end.
“We had a heck of a year. Our guys competed,” Gardner said. “Obviously we all about Jon. He’s had an unbelievable career. C.J. made shots. We wish them the best. They push the ball on you miss or make. When Jon has the ball in his hands, he gets the offense flowing and makes right decisions. As a former player, you tell the intensity when you walked into the arena. You like that.”
The game was designated the Jim Phelan Classic and Elmore received the game MVP honor.