"We made a conscious decision to take (Alex) Shorts out of it, and allow them to shoot the three," Marshall coach Greg White said after the game. "But unfortunately, they knocked it down."
Oddly enough, it was a game where the two teams' stars (Tamar Slay for Marshall, Alex Shorts for Miami) had little effect on the outcome. Instead it was players like Johnson (26 points) for Miami and Ronald Blackshear for Marshall (19 points) came to the forefront.
Marshall jumped out to a quick 10-5 lead early in the first half. Then, tied up at 22-22 with 7:54 remaining, the RedHawks caught fire while Marshall went flat. The result was a 18-5 run over that 7:54 that propelled Miami out to a 40-27 lead at the half. Miami aggressively out-rebounded Marshall, especially on the offensive side of things, to get second-chance putbacks.
The first half run was sparked for Miami by three-pointers from Juby Johnson and Larry Drake. "They really did the job from three-point range tonight," said MU coach Greg White of Johnson's shooting exhibition from behind the arc.
Miami would never look back once out in front, despite a valiant comeback attempt by Marshall in the second half. The RedHawks' lead was extended to 20 points, 50-30, on yet another of Johnson's three-pointers (he hit six on the evening) at the 16:15 mark.
Enter Marshall's Ron Blackshear and Monty Wright. Wright scored all 8 of his points in the second half -and made two steals on two consecutive Miami possessions-, while Blackshear got hot at the 9:09 mark, hitting two consecutive threes to cut the lead to 14 at 60-46.
Marshall cut the lead to eight, 63-51, on Ronny Dawn's three-pointer with 7:02 remaining, but Miami answered every basket from there on out with a basket of their own. Blackshear hit a fade-away jumper to again get MU within eight at 65-57, with a little more than five minutes left.
"We've got to get out primetime players playing," White summed up.
Miami then slowed the tempo down, utilizing shot clock-eating possessions to keep the RedHawks lead at 10 or greater. Juby Johnson's sixth three-pointer of the night with a little more than 1:00 left extended Miami's lead back out to 15 points, the final margin of victory.
Marshall shot 42% on the night, on 20-of-47 shooting. Blackshear led all Marshall scorers with 19 points, and J.R. VanHoose was the only other MU player in double figures with 16 points.
Marshall falls to 7-6 overall, 2-2 in the MAC, and host Eastern Michigan this Saturday night at the Henderson Center in Huntington. Game time is set for 7:30pm. Miami is now 5-9 overall, 2-1 in the MAC, and goes on to face Akron this Saturday in Oxford.