— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Marshall University men’s basketball team spent Wednesday and part of Thursday putting together a game plan for the final time this season
Thundering Herd coach Dan D’Antoni said it probably wouldn’t be that detailed since he and his staff had little time to devise it. Marshall held off Hampton University, 80-78, Tuesday night inside the Cam Henderson Center in one of two CollegeInsider.com Tournament semifinal games. The other saw Wisconsin Green Bay need overtime to oust Texas Southern, 87-86, at the Kress Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The later start and overtime certainly cut into the Herd’s planning sessions and made for a long night and longer Wednesday for the Phoenix. Green Bay’s travel party used much of Wednesday to travel to Huntington for Thursday night’s championship game at Henderson Center. Game time is 7 p.m. CBS SportsNetwork will air the game live.
Marshall has its first chance for a national title since 1947 when the Herd, with just eight players and coached by legendary Cam Henderson, won the NAIB crown in Kansas City. The 1946-47 team started the season 17-0 and won five NAIB games in six days to finish 32-5 overall.
“It’s a good chance to set another first for these seniors,” D’Antoni said. C.J (Burks), Jon (Elmore), they all will come out and do what they have to to be ready. Not a whole lot goes on now. We’ll go over what they do a little bit. Most of the stuff is done.”
D’Antoni hopes the turnout Thursday will be equal to or higher than Tuesday when 4,122 supporters rooted the Herd home to victory.
“I really appreciate the crowd,” D’Antoni said. “They got me confused at times at the end of the game because they were so loud. If I probably knew what I was doing I’d have messed up. That’s why it’s fun. You get to be a part of it, getting to yell your lungs out or cry your heart out. One of the two. You feel better the next day.”
Elmore, who has become Marshall’s and Conference USA’s all-time leading scorer during the season, added to the record list Tuesday night courtesy of research done by Chuck McGill of herdzone.com. Elmore finished with 28 points, including 23 in the first half, to increase his career total to 2,621. Elmore’s father, Gay, racked up 2,422 during his career at VMI to give them 5,043 — making them the highest-scoring father-son duo in the history of Division I men’s basketball.
The record previously belonged to one of the most famous basketball families. Dell Curry scored 2,385 points from 1982-86 at Virginia Tech, and then his son Stephen Curry scored 2,635 points during a stellar three-year career at Davidson for a total of 5,020.
In the win over Hampton, the score was tied nine times and the lead changed hands 13 times. Hampton charged back to lead as late as 2:07 remaining in the second half, but Burks secured the win with four free throws down the stretch.
Marshall (22-14) has won three straight and nine of 10 entering Thursday’s championship game. The Herd attempted 32 shots from 3-point range, pushing the team’s season total to 1,032 – a program record.
Green Bay (21-16) had to battle to the end as well. Senior guard Sandy Cohen III, who started his career at Marquette, connected on a 15-foot jumper with 1.5 seconds left to win it for the Phoenix. He went over 1,000 points for his career during the second half.
It’s the second time this season Cohen has hit a game-winner with his team trailing, the first coming on an improbable shot at the buzzer in a win over Cleveland State in January.
The stakes were a little higher in this one.
Green Bay coach Linc Darner is looking for his team to show improvement from the foul line Thursday night. The Phoenix went just 3-for-11 from the line, including 1-for-7 in the second half on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s game was the third straight CIT home game for the Phoenix. Marshall is home for the fourth straight time.
Green Bay has also been dealing with an outside distraction. According to an ESPN report this week, Darner is one of several coaches under consideration for the Georgia State opening, which became available when Ron Hunter was hired at Tulane.
“Don’t believe everything you read on Twitter,” Darner told Green Bay Post-Gazette reporter Scott Venci. “Somebody put out that a Horizon League coach got interviewed. Sometimes people put your name out there to hurt you and recruiting and different things. But, no, I have not talked to anybody. I am concentrating on us and getting one more win for Green Bay.”
Darner recently earned a one-year extension for finishing in the top four in the Horizon. He is signed through 2023-24.