— By David Walsh

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s defense over the final 12-plus minutes allowed the Thundering Herd to turn a tight contest with Presbyterian College into a runaway victory in a CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday night at Cam Henderson Center.

The Blue Hose led the Thundering Herd 56-54 with 12:46 left on a layup by Chris Martin. Marshall limited the Big South member to 10 points the rest of the way and got several alley-oop slams and dunks off pick-and-rolls from that point on to pull away to an 83-66 victory.

“We locked down in the second half, took them out of what they wanted to do,” Herd senior guard Jon Elmore said. “We anticipate well. They tried to go small on us, but we’re small anyway.”

Marshall advances to the semifinal round next Tuesday at 7 p.m. The opponent will be known after all other quarterfinal games are done. Two quarterfinal contests are scheduled for Thursday, while the other will be played Friday.

Marshall (21-14) tied the game 56-56 on a dunk by Jannson Williams with 11:50 to play. The Herd went ahead 58-56 when Tavion Kinsey nailed two free throws with 10:44 remaining and expanded on that lead from that point on to put coach D’Antoni and the 3,383 fans in better spirits and offset a bit the chippy play from earlier in the half.   

Williams got called for a technical foul with 17:08 to go thanks to a verbal exchange with the Blue Hose sideline. Players from both sides got up close to one another time and again and one time the referees moved in to separate the players.

“This is one-and-done. You can’t have mistakes like that,” D’Antoni said. “You can’t have a T, can’t get into a little fuss and not get on their big fellow. Jannson can’t react like that. You’re going to lose that battle. We’re trying to win a championship. They didn’t shoot well (24-65, 36.9 percent) and they’re a good shooting ball club. The last seven minutes we clamped down on them.”

Elmore and guard C.J. Burks took the verbal sparring as part of the intense game.

“They talked a little bit. We talked a little bit,” Elmore said. “We won so we got to talk more than they do.”

“It’s fun,” Burks said. “It lets you know everybody on both teams are engaged.”

Burks led the Herd with 20 points. Elmore, the leading scorer in Marshall and Conference USA history, finished with 16 and hit three three-pointers to become No. 1 in C-USA career-three pointers. Charlotte’s Jobey Thomas had the record with 345.

As for all the dunks over the final 10 minutes, Elmore said that didn’t come as a surprise.

“We put them in a bad position,” Elmore said. “It’s our system, what we run. We take advantage of what they give us.”

Adam Flagler led the Blue Hose (20-16) with 18 points and Francois Lewis added 15. This was Presbyterian’s third road game in the tournament. The 20 wins are a single-season best. The CIT also is the first tournament for the Blue Hose as a Divison I member.

D’Antoni said his players would get three days off and then resume practice for the semifinal contest.

“We want to see if we can finish this season on a high note,” D’Antoni said.

Marshall is now 3-0 all-time against Presbyterian.