Blackshear -who transferred from Temple a little over one year ago- played in only his second full game for Marshall since becoming eligible after the fall semester ended two weeks ago. And the sophomore didn't waste a minute against UMass before pulling the trigger on his deft shooting touch. In the first half, Blackshear got the hot hand early on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3-5 from three-point range.
"That's what he does," Marshall coach Greg White said afterward. "He (Blackshear) can do that every night."
Marshall took a slim 35-31 lead at the half, riding the shoulders of Blackshear's 13-points in the first 20 minutes. The physical Minutemen wouldn't just roll over in the second half, however. UMass took the lead back from the Herd at the 16:28 mark on Anthony Anderson's layup, 37-36. Marshall took the lead back on a Latece Williams layup, 42-40, with 14:36 to go.
Marshall kept trying to pull away from UMass over the next five minutes of play, but the Minutemen would give the Herd no larger than a three-point lead. Marshall began to slowly pull away when Tamar Slay began to get hot in the second half. Slay's two free throws at the 5:47 mark pulled the Herd ahead by seven, 66-59.
"This is just a totally different team," said J.R. VanHoose of the new-look Herd. "We just had to settle down after the first few games."
Ron Blackshear goes up for two of his 26-points against UMass.
It was Blackshear, though, who would open the flood gates. His three-pointer at the 4:43 mark put Marshall out in front by double-digits for the first time all night, 70-60. A Tamar Slay layup with 2:49 left ended Marshall's scoring from the floor. Almost. Marshall's next five points came via free throws, despite the Herd only shooting 56.1% from the charity stripe all night. Ronny Dawn fed J.R. VanHoose on the game's last score, a layup with three seconds left, to ice the 81-66 win for the Herd.
"I couldn't wait to step on the court today," Blackshear said of his breakout game. "I just came in and worked my butt off, and got it done."
VanHoose played quite possibly his finest game yet against UMass, getting physical against the extremely tall and physical Minutemen. VanHoose finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds. Blackshear was high man on the scoring list, hitting 26 points, 21 coming via seven three-point shots. Blackshear also grabbed 8 rebounds in 29 minutes of play. Slay chalked up 14 of his 15 points in the second half, keeping UMass at bay. Latece Williams had 14 points, 6 rebounds, while William Butler came in off the bench to chip in 8 points underneath. And freshman guard Ronny Dawn continued his impressive first season at Marshall with 5 points, 6 assists.
Marshall now improves to 7-4 overall, all 7 wins are consecutive. The Herd faces MAC East foe Kent State in Huntington next Saturday night at 7:30pm. UMass falls to 6-4 overall, and opens Atlantic-10 play next Saturday against St. Joseph's.
Look for in-depth game coverage of Marshall's win over UMass in the next print issue of Herd Insider, due to be in the mail to subscribers on Wednesday, January 2, due to the New Year's holiday on Tuesday. This issue also features our comprehensive coverage of the GMAC Bowl win in Mobile, Alabama last week, and is destined to be a collectible!
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