"We can't dig ourselves a hole like that," said MU forward Mark Patton. "We've got to play for 40 minutes like we played the last 20 minutes tonight."
That 15-point hole happened with 13:42 left in the first half. David Anderson's layup at that point would be the only Marshall points scored over the following 5:50. Marshall held an 8-3 lead at that point, and when the drought was over, Akron had shot out to a 23-8 lead. Two free throws by A.W. Hamilton would break the drought with 7:52 left.
"We got good shots," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa. "If you let it affect you on defense, that's when a run happens."
Marshall did cut the Akron lead to only five, at 23-28. But Bubba Walther's three with :11 left extended the Zips halftime lead to a healthy 35-23. Walther lead the Zips with 13 points in the half.
"Tonight was just missed shots," said MU guard A.W. Hamilton. "I was getting great shots, just nothing would fall. If we can shoot a decent percentage, things might go our way."
Enter Enoch Bunch. Marshall's senior guard provided the spark that enabled The Herd to close the gap to 52-46 with 7:56 left in the game, hitting a three with the feed from Hamilton. Tre Whitted added another three to get Marshall within three points, at 54-51.
A.W. Hamilton overcame his bad shooting night (1-14 from the field) at the free throw line. Hamilton's two free throws with 2:46 left got Marshall as close as they would come all night -two points- at 57-55.Akron's Dru Joyce iced the game with a slicing layup with :53 remaining that gave Akron the five point (60-55) lead. The Zips hit 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to extend the lead to the game-ending 65-55 margin.
"Tough shot, but it didn't surprise me," said Akron coach Keith Dambrot of Joyce's clutch layup.
"Too many times this year, every game we've had here comes down to the last 50 seconds," said Marshall guard Enoch Bunch. "In the second half, we outplay every team."
"That first half just buries us."
Akron out-rebounded Marshall by a wide 43-33 margin, and the Zips also shot 40.8% (20-of-49) from the field, compared to MU's 16-of-54 night (29.6%). Enoch Bunch (12 points) and A.W. Hamilton (10 points) were the only two Marshall players in double figures. Hamilton's double-digit night belied the fact that seven of his points came from the free throw line.
"I refuse to blame it on the shooting," summed up Marshall coach Ron Jirsa. "It's a fact we didn't shoot well. It came down to us missing a layup at the end, really."
Jirsa was hampered by foul trouble early. Forwards Mark Patton and David Anderson both hit the three-fouls mark early, with Anderson being saddled with two fouls (one a technical) for a shoving incident with Akron's Matt Futch early in the second half.
"That certainly was a big factor," said Jirsa.
Marshall is now 4-11 overall, and 0-6 in the MAC. Akron bumps up to 10-5 and 4-3, respectively.
Still, Jirsa stayed optimistic for The Herd's future. "Some people run away from the challenge," he said. "This is a tremendous challenge."
"We've got to stay loose, stay together, and make more than 29% of our shots."