Marshall Clamps Down On Morehead State, 85-71

Marshall head coach Ron Jirsa picked up his first win with the Thundering Herd in a rousing 85-71 win over rival Morehead State University. The Herd improved to 1-1, while the Eagles fell to 1-2. "Yes, we are in the win column," said Jirsa. "We were playing closer to full strength tonight. Our players need to embrace out system and I felt like we were getting closer. We were closer on offense. Our team got stronger later and it's a sign the team is improving."

MU smothered the reigning Ohio Valley Conference Player Of The Year, Ricky Minard, who scored only 17 points. Minard averaged 22 points a game so far this season and all of last year, including 35 points against MU in the win at Morehead last year. Five of Minard's points came in the final minutes of the contest when the game was clearly in Marshall's hands. The Herd held Minard to 4-of-17 shooting, including 1-of-5 from three-point land. MSU only shot 35 percent for the game and 25 percent in the first half on 7-of-28.

Ronnie Dawn talked after the game about his teammate's job on Minard. "The plan was to help out on Minard," said Dawn. "Everyone had to guard him, trap him. A. W. (Hamilton) did phenomenal job on Minard." Marshall played tremendous defense, hit the glass and the offense finally began to surface in the second half when Ronnie Dawn hit for three three-point baskets in the first four and one-half minutes of the second half as Morehead was cutting a comfortable 36-29 lead down to 42-40 at four minutes in.

"It felt good to get back in the game," said Dawn, who only scored one point in game one with the flu. "We started making hustle plays on defense and that makes out offense click." Dawn's four three's in the second half helped him to score 15 points in the second half and 17 in the game. Three other Marshall starters were in double figures as well. Enoch Bunch scored 11 points for the second game in a row.

The other two, Marvin Black and A.W. Hamilton, had "double-double" nights.Black had 16 points and 11 rebounds, his eighth career "double-double" for Marshall and the second time in two games against Morehead. Hamilton scored 11 points, giving him 25 for the year, and dished 10 assists against only one turnover. Black said when the game tightened to just one point at 52-51 with 10:25 to play, all Jirsa had to do was give "the look" and the team understood what he expected. "Coach gave us a look, like get it together," said Black. "We talked among ourselves and got it together. We are a defensive team and we turned up the defensive pressure. That will win games night in and night out."

Jirsa was not sure about what look, but he was pleased the team is starting to feel comfortable in the system. "Marvin is reading me. We are learning each other and we can do very good things together," said Jirsa. "We have got to continue to work together." Marshall would go on a 16-0 run over the next five-plus minutes and stretch the lead to 68-51 before the Eagles would score at the 4:46 mark of the second half. Morehead would employ a "foul and send MU to the line" strategy for the final four minutes of the game, but the Herd hit on 9-of-14 free throws to set the final margin at 85-71.

Morehead's fouling was not the only reason both teams committed 55 fouls combined. The officials seemed in love with the whistle, giving Marshall 10 fouls in the first seven minutes of the second half. Then it was Morehead's turn, receiving 12 fouls in the last 12 minutes of the game and 18 in all in the second half. Fouling out of the game was Marshall's LaVar Carter and Mark Patton, who had fouls called that no one on the MU bench or floor were very happy about. Black steered clear of outright complaining, but did say, "I'm not going to comment on the refs but Mark Patton got the bad end of the stick tonight. He got some bad calls, but we have to learn to play through it. I was irate about Patton's fifth foul, he just came (straight) down next to the guy. You know me, I'm going to show my (emotion)."

The Eagles had two players foul out, Chad McKnight, who scored four points, and Josh Graham, who had 15 points. MSU had four other players finish the game with four fouls, as did Marshall's Bunch and Tre' Whitted, who scored five points. Chez Marks led all scorers with 22 points in the game, including 4-of-11 from three.

Marshall has the road this week in a big way. Monday the Herd travels to the Queen City of Cincinnati for a match-up with Kentucky, the number nine or ten team in the nation depending on your poll. Then it is another bus trip to Radford, Virginia, to meet the Highlanders on December 4. The Herd will fly from Roanoke, Virginia, on Friday, December 5, to Portland, Oregon. There, Marshall will have a first-ever meeting with the Oregon Ducks in the Pape' Jam at the Rose Arena in Portland on December 6. Oregon will return to West Virginia next season to play the Herd in the Charleston Civic Center. MU is home following finals week, on December 13 against Mid-American Conference foe Northern Illinois.

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