"I've never played against a zone for 40 minutes," Marshall guard/forward Tamar Slay summed up the Troy State style of play. "We haven't had any consistent play for 40 minutes." Slay, J.R. VanHoose and Ronny Dawn all appeared drained in the postgame press conference after letting the win slip away. "I think that's all we need to get is consistent play for 40 minutes," Slay added, "and we'll be alright."
Slay of course was referring to the last three games for the Herd -all losses- which have seen the gamut of good play, great play, and terrible play, sometimes within the same 40 minute stretch. The loss to Troy State was no different, but it should be noted that the Trojans weren't cupcake-city material, either.
William Butler goes over Troy State's Lamayn Wilson for a shot.
Marshall took a not-too-comfy 41-37 lead into the lockers at halftime, courtesy of some hot shooting by freshman guard Ronny Dawn. The 6-3, 185-pound Dawn nailed threes from the outside right corner that enabled Marshall to lead by as many as nine points during the game.
"We should have put them away when we were up nine in the second half," Dawn added after the game. "Hopefully, we'll get that out of our system, being the beginning of the year. And when it comes down to the MAC tournament, we can win at the end of the game."
Troy State guard Robert Rushing put the nail in Marshall's coffin late in the second half. After seeing a nine-point lead disappear, Marshall and the Trojans engaged in a three-point battle royale in the final minute of play. Tamar Slay drilled a three from the left corner, and Troy State forward Lamayn Wilson answered with a three of his own on the next possession, as the two teams swapped a one point lead with each consecutive three-pointer made. MU's Ronny Dawn missed one three, only to have the rebound kicked back to him seconds later, and Dawn nailed it the second time from the top-right of the circle.
With :51 remaining, Troy State guard Robert Rushing took the lead back for good on a crushing three-pointer that put the Trojans out in front, 73-72. From that point to the end, it was all free throws for Troy State as Marshall tried to quickly foul and regain possession, all to no avail.
"I just felt the shot was there, so I decided to take it," was Rushing's matter-of-fact description of the shot that broke the Herd's back, so to say.
"They hit two downtown threes, two game-winning shots, they deserve to win the game," Marshall coach Greg White said. "We've just got to step up and make the same kind of plays if we want to win the game."
The loss brings to an end Marshall's 25-game non-conference home winning streak, which dates back to the Billy Donovan era of 1995-96, and included some quality wins over the likes of Wake Forest, UMass, and Georgia.
Marshall was led by Slay's 25 points, including 5-of-8 from three-point range. Ronny Dawn nailed 17 points, including his 5-of-7 shooting from outside the arc. Forward Latece Williams had 11 points, all the hard way, underneath. William Butler had 8 points, and appears to be on the road to quality play from his season-ending-before-it-began knee injury in 2000. VanHoose was held to only nine points, 10 rebounds, illustrating the effectiveness of Troy State's zone that limits inside play. Marshall shot 26-of-66 from the floor, and hit 10-of-13 from the free throw line.
The Herd now drops to 0-3 early in the '01 season with the loss, and faces Shepherd (WV) and Arkansas-Monticello in home games next week. Troy State got their first win of the season, improving to an even 1-1. Troy's loss came at the hands of Kansas State last week, 64-60, and Troy State led that game 49-43 with less than 10 minutes to go. The Trojans now move on to play at Maine, then return home for two games against Jacksonville State and Samford.
"We just have to get better from these games," J.R. VanHoose summed up. "We'll be alright. That's what people have to understand: We're going to work through this and be alright."