The difference? Free throws and defense. In a nutshell. Central also shot a mind-numbing perfect 7-of-7 from the three-point line in the second half.
"They were hitting their shots," summed up Marshall center Mark Patton.
Patton notched a career-high with 21 points and 10 rebounds. "We need to hit our free throws and play defense."
Central Michigan forward Sefton Barrett illustrated Patton's statement in the first half. The 6-6, 200-pound sophomore singlehandedly scored CMU's first 10 points in the game, en route to a career-high 27 points in the game.
"I didn't expect it," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa of Barrett's performance.
Marshall whittled down an early CMU five-point lead and took the lead with 14:29 left in the first half, 13-10, on guard Joe Miles' three-pointer. Miles would also have a career-high night, finishing with 21 points.
Marshall guard Joe Miles drove the lane in the second half against Central Michigan. Miles scored a career-high 21 points in the loss.
Mark Patton's free throws with 4:53 left in the half would give Marshall their biggest lead of ten points, 34-24. Central finished the half on a 11-5 run to cut MU's lead to 39-35 at the half. "Our defense was the thing that killed us the most," said MU forward David Anderson. We can't let one or two guys score 27 points. That's NBA-like scoring."
The second half was witness to a Central Michigan three-point shooting barage that ended in a perfect 7-of-7 line in the box score. Still, Marshall and CMU were never more than four points away from one another most of the second half. With 3:40 left in the game, the Chippewas' Kevin Nelson made the basket-and-one to give CMU their largest lead of six points, at 73-67.
A.W. Hamilton drained a three, followed by a David Anderson layup, to cut the lead to only one point at 73-72. Anderson would hit a free throw to tie the game for the sixth time at 73-73. Central's Giordan Watson hit the Chippewas' seventh consecutive three-pointer coming out of a time out, giving CMU the lead it would never relinquish.
Central made 5-of-6 free throws in the final :16 to keep the lead and seal the win. On the other hand, Marshall's off-night at the free throw line stood out in the post-game box score. The Herd shot just 64.1% -25-of-39- in the game.
"We need those in a close game, and this was a close game," added Marshall coach Ron Jirsa of his team's free-throw shooting woes. In addition to Patton and Miles hitting career-highs, Central Michigan's Sefton Barrett finished with one of his own, at 27 points. Marshall's David Anderson also hit a double-double, with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
With the loss, Marshall stalls out at 2-8 overall, 0-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Central Michigan, meanwhile, improved to 6-4 overall and an even 1-1 in the MAC with the road win.
CMU coach Jay Smith was happy with the uber-rare road win.
"We just fight you on every possession," Smith said. "We're getting a little tougher. It's a step in the right direction."
Marshall's Jirsa searched for the words, then added, "We're frustrated and discouraged. But, our effort's been good. We just ran into a team [CMU] that shot the ball extremely well."
"We need a win badly."
Marshall will get a shot at the Bowling Green Falcons this Thursday night at 7pm in the Henderson Center, in search of the much-needed win that Jirsa is looking for. After that, The Herd heads up the road to Athens, Ohio to face the Ohio University Bobcats on January 9 at 1pm.