"Our players kept their poise," added Jirsa after the win here at the Rose Arena.
Marshall took a 37-28 lead at halftime, but had lead by as many as 15 points (35-20). However in the second half, a combination of MU bench scoring (33 points) and heads-up defense enabled Marshall to keep the Chippewas at bay.
"If we continue to give the effort, good things can happen," added Jirsa. His team notched their second win in a row for the first time this 2003-04 season.
CMU's T.J. Meerman got the late rally going, hitting a three-pointer with 4:27 remaining to cut the MU lead to only three points, at 63-60. Kevin Nelso would add another Chippewas three pointer with 3:45 left, putting CMU as close as one point at 64-63. Marshall's Jirsa immediately called a timeout.
"It seemed we were fizzing at that point," Jirsa explained the time out.
Apparently, Jirsa's maneuvering paid off. Ronny Dawn nailed a three-pointer after the time out, while Eric Smith blocked CMU's Tony Bowne as Bowne put up a three of his own. That play by Smith effectively halted the Chippewas chance at a comeback, and Marshall went on to score the final five points on free throws by Marvin Black, A.W. Hamilton, and Eric Smith.
"If we can do the job there [on defense], I know we can score," summed up MU coach Jirsa. "Defense has to be there, home or away."
CMU's Gerrit Brigitha led all scorers with 26 points, while teammate T.J. Meerman was the only additional Chippewa player to score in double figures. Central Michigan shot a blistering 51.9% in the second half comeback.
Marvin Black led Marshall in scoring with 20 points. Ardo Armpalu added 14 points. Eric Smith contributed heavily coming off the bench, nailing 9 points and grabbing a team-high 9 rebounds. Marshall outrebounded CMU by a 42-30 margin, and Marshall's bench scored a whopping 33 points, compared to CMU's bench, which only added 9 points to the mix.
Marshall now improves to 5-4 overall and a perfect 2-0 in the MAC with the win, and returns home to Huntington to face Kent State at the Henderson Center next Tuesday night at 7pm. Central Michigan falls to 3-8 overall and 0-1 in the MAC with the loss.