On senior night, all three Thundering Herd seniors scored in double figures en route to defeating the Southern Miss Golden Eagles 79-75.
Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson scored 13 points while Dago Pena added 10. Two other Thundering Herd players scored in double figures. Dennis Tinnon recorded a game high 22 points and DeAndre Kane chipped in with 17.
“That’s a great win,” said head coach Tom Herrion. “I’m so proud of those kids especially those three seniors.”
Southern Miss (24-7, C-USA 11-5) entered the contest with the second best record in Conference USA, but was upended by Marshall (18-12, C-USA 9-7) in front of 5,947 fans inside the Cam Henderson Center.
Pitts scored the first four points for the Thundering Herd and was effective early on. Pitts connected on a three-pointer at the 11:13 mark to regain the lead for the Herd at 18-17 behind his nine points. Johnson capped off a three-point play the old fashion way to extend the lead to 26-20 as part of an 11-2 Marshall run. The Golden Eagles would respond with a 7-0 run to pull within one.
“Two good teams I think; punch for punch,” said Herrion. “It was a boxing match and they didn’t go away.”
Johnson with a massive alley-oop courtesy of Kane was part of an 8-0 run for Marshall to give the Herd its largest lead of the game at nine points, 36-27. The final two minutes did not feature much offense as the Herd took a 36-29 lead into the half.
Marshall was successful on most fronts in the first half but did struggle from three-point range, going 1-11.
The second half started of with an eruption from the crowd as Robert Goff posterized Southern Miss’ Jonathan Mills for a quick two points.
“We pounded the paint really well today,” said Herrion. “We got it into Goff to start the second half for a dunk.”
After the dunk another Southern Miss run brought the Golden Eagles within one, 38-37. A shot from the Golden Eagles’ Mills tied the game up at 41. Over the next five minutes Pena stamped his impression on senior night recording an assists to Tinnon for a dunk, a fast break dunk of his own and two three-pointers to give the Herd a 57-52 lead.
Pitts fouled out of the game with 1:41 left to play with the Herd leading holding a five-point advantage, 69-64. Down the stretch, clutch free-throwing shooting by Tinnon and Kane and two big blocks by Goff sealed the deal for the Herd. Pena blocked Neil Watson’s shot at the buzzer and the Herd picked up the win 79-75.
“We have been more focused than ever, especially with shooting free throws,” said Tinnon. “I was surprised I missed so many.”
Tinnon went 8-11 from the field and 6-9 from the charity stipe. Tinnon and Nigel Spikes led the team on the boards with nine apiece as Johnson and Kane each dished out five assists.
“Our execution was really good today, much better,” said Herrion.
Up next for Marshall is a trip to Memphis for the Conference USA tournament on Wednesday and will wait to see their matchup.