"The momentum came from last week, at Miami," said MU guard Enoch Bunch. "Even though we didn't get that win at Miami, we just had the confidence coming into the game."
The first half was arguably Marshall's best half of basketball this season. Marvin Black reacted to the EMU double-team perfectly, finding open teammates like LaVar Carter for easy baskets. The result was a 62.5% shooting effort (15-of-24) in the half and a 46-33 lead at the break.
"Coach Jirsa has really worked with me to beat the double-team," said Black. "I think I did a good job of beating the double team, hitting the shooting guard, the point guard, things like that."
LaVar Carter took a pass from Marvin Black in for two of his 5 points against Eastern Michigan on Monday night in the first round of the MAC tournament.
"Our team showed a lot more poise at the end of the first half, and I think it's a sign of growth," said MU coach Ron Jirsa.
In the second half, Marshall endured a five-minute shooting slump, but turned up the defensive pressure to keep the Eagles at bay during that time. Eastern got as close as 9 points on James Jackson's layup with 10:25 remaining.
"Early in the season, we'd get down and it would affect us on defense," Jirsa added. "Tonight, I thought we didn't really let that dry spell affect us on the defensive end, and it's a big part of the story."
Ronny Dawn drained a three with 7:33 left to extend Marshall's lead back out to 60-46, and the drought was over.
Four Herd players scored in double figures, with Black and Hamilton each getting 16 points (Black also hauled in 14 rebounds, the team's only double-double). Dawn added 11 points, and Enoch Bunch did perhaps the most damage in the shortest time span, scoring 12 points in just 9 minutes of play (Bunch was 3-of-4 from the field, 1-1 from three, and hit 5-of-5 free throws).
Eastern Michigan shot a paltry 28.6% from the free throw line (4-of-14), adding to coach Jim Boone's frustration.
"We just had some guys that didn't have anything left in the second half, and Marshall took advantage of that," said Boone.
Marshall (12-16 overall) now moves on to the quarterfinal round of the MAC Tournament at Cleveland's Gund Arena. The Herd and the Western Michigan Broncos will square off on Thursday evening at 7pm.
"We're happy to be going to Cleveland," Jirsa summed up. "We stuck together and played well at the tail end of the season, worked hard to play together."