"We had a lot of focus and intensity to start the game," said MU coach Royce Chadwick, "but we had several lulls in the second half."
And that first half defensive effort by The Herd set off a chain reaction on the offensive end of the court. Senior guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall had a field day in the first half, scoring 17 points. Combined with 11 MU steals and 16 UTPA turnovers, well, you get the picture.
"We were being really patient," said MU guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall of the first half smothering on defense by The Herd.
Shepard-Hall lit the fire midway through the first half. In the span of 11 seconds beginning with 10:13 on the clock, Shepard-Hall made two steals and scored 5 points to begin an eventual 27-7 flurry.
Marshall's Sikeetha Shepard-Hall (left) and Crystal Champion force a turnover by Texas-Pan American's Kathy Guin during the first half. UTPA committed 16 turnovers in the first half.
Marshall took a whopping 45-14 lead into the lockerroom at the half.
"We did a good job of taking advantage of the situations presented to us," Chadwick said.
The second half wasn't nearly as sharp as Chadwick would have liked for The Herd. After a first half with just 7 turnovers, Marshall committed 13 more in the second half. Meanwhile, Texas-Pan American began to score, and was able to cut the MU lead to just 26 points (63-37) with 7:54 remaining.
"It's tough for us to maintain intensity because we have so many young players," Chadwick added.
A layup by Modupe Ishola with 4:27 left stretched the Herd's lead back out to 36 points at 75-39, and ended the UTPA semi-run. Ishola notched her first double-double of the season with 14 points, 10 rebounds.
"The main focus was rebounding," said Ishola. "In both halves, our post players did pretty good."
Marshall held UTPA to just 19.0% shooting for the game (11-of-58), while The Herd hit on 49.2% (30-of-61) from the field. Sikeetha Shepard-Hall finished with 21 points and 4 steals, while Crystal Champion added 12 points and 7 rebounds.
The first-round win now advances Marshall to the championship round of the Fifth Third MU Classic at 1pm on Saturday. The Herd will face Lehigh, which beat UNC-Asheville by a 61-51 margin earlier on Friday night at the Henderson Center.