Herd Falls Apart, Loses to GW, 69-64

Lexington, KY -- "I don't know if I've ever been around a game like that," said Marshall assistant coach Jeff Burkhamer of Marshall's 69-64 loss to George Washington in the NABC Coaches Classic at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY tonight.

Burkhamer was referring to Marshall's seemingly impossible self-destruction in the second half, which saw the Herd go from enjoying a 18 point lead to losing by 5 points.

It all started so innocently enough. Marshall jumped out to a 27-14 lead on two Slay 3-pointers. The Beckley, WV senior was on fire in the first half, putting on a show for the 30 NBA scouts in attendance at Rupp Arena.

Marshall's J.R. VanHoose drives to the basket against George Washington in Lexington, KY. Mark Cornelison photo

GW cut the lead down a tad, and with 3:37 to go, MU lead 42-32. Marshall shot back out to 45-32 on Ronny Dawn's third three-pointer of the first half, and that found MU on on a10-2 run. The Marshall lead was extended to 51-34 on Ronny Dawn's fast-break layup.

Using mainly perimeter shooting and playing transition basketball, Marshall cruised to the lockerroom with a comfy 53-35 lead at the half. Tamar Slay finished the first half with 17 points, freshman guard Ronny Dawn lit up GW for 11 points and 3 assists, and J.R. VanHoose had 10. Marshall appeared to be in solid control of the game at that point. Marshall shot 54% in the first half, and had nailed 14 points off the bench and 11 points off GW turnovers.

Then, the bottom fell out for coach Greg White and his Thundering Herd squad. Literally.

A miserable 2-of-28 (7%) shooting performance in the second half saw Marshall go from hero to zero, in the final 20 minutes. GW capitalized on MU's shooting woes, grabbing a 63-52 lead with 8:10 remaining in the game. GW would not look back.

Over an 8-minute span in the second half, Marshall did not score a single point, and was 2-of-22 shooting at that point.

Tamar Slay finally hit two free throws with 5:13 left, cutting the GW lead to one one point at 65-64. However, GW's Jaason Smith answered with two FTs of his own, and extended GW's lead back out to three. The hot-shooting Slay had no baskets in the second half at all, despite lighting up GW for 17 in the first half.

In all, Marshall scored a dismal 11 total points in the second half, this in stark contrast to MU's 53-point first half performance. "You can't beat anybody when you shoot 2-for-28," was Burkhamer's answer after the game. "They really got after us a bit harder, and we didn't react to it."

With the loss in the first round of the NABC Coaches Classic, Marshall now faces the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the consolation round. #3 UK was upset by Western Kentucky, 63-52, in the second game of the first round tonight.

"Kentucky on their home floor is a large task for anybody," Burkhamer summed up.

Marshall and Kentucky tip-off at 6pm Friday.

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