"Their team is a lot better than their record," offered up Kent State coach Jim Christian afterward.
Nine critical free throws in the second half were missed by the Herd, and the result was a MU 9-point lead dwindled away in the final 9:12 of the game. Just like against Buffalo last week, Marshall came out strong and lead for 3/4 of the game.
"Our free throw shooting and our rebounding late in the game were the two big factors," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa. "You've got to step up there and bury them."
Marshall's Tre Whitted drove against Kent State's Jason Edwin in the second half.
The Herd lead the entire first half, thanks to a quick start courtesy of solid three-point shooting by A.W. Hamilton and Ronny Dawn. The duo hit five threes in the first half, and Marshall shot out to a 17-7 lead early on. Kent took a quick 23-22 lead, but Marshall finished strong with a 7-0 run. Hamilton's three with 2:28 left gave MU their biggest lead of the half at 40-28. KSU went on a 6-point run to finish the half, and Marshall had the 40-34 halftime lead.
"We knew we had them on their heels," said Marshall guard Tre Whitted. "We kept telling each other not to let it slip away."
Kent State's Nate Gerwig had other plans.
Gerwig –held scoreless in the first half– added five points in the second half. His free throw with 5:29 left in the game gave the Golden Flashes the lead for good at 59-58. A lackluster 1-for-5 at the free throw line by Marshall in the final five minutes enabled KSU to extend the lead from there on out. In fact, Kent shot 9-for-16 from the free throw line in that same time span, including Gerwig's final two good free throws with :08 left that sealed the 70-63 win.
"He thrashed around in there, and we weren't able to get a free throw," added MU coach Jirsa of Gerwig's second half performance. Gerwig also grabbed five rebounds.
"A tremendous lift," added Kent coach Jim Christian.
Whitted lead the Marshall scoring with 13 points, while Hamilton added 12. Whitted also lead Marshall in rebounding with six. Marshall shot just 31.8% from the field in the second half, compared to their much better 54.5% first half.
The free throw line proved to be The Herd's achilles heel, as the team shot just 57.1% (16-of-28) in the game. Hamilton acknowledged the shortfall.
"We played pretty good defense, most of the game," said A.W. Hamilton. "But we had our chances at the [free throw] line, and missed a few."
"We can't seem to get over that hump."
Kent State, meanwhile, failed to shine in any statistical category, except for free throw shooting. The Golden Flashes shot just 39.6% from the field (21-of-53), and 33.3% from three (7-of-21). However, KSU burned up the free throw line, making a solid 21-of-30 (70.0%), the difference in the game.
"We just could not close it out," added Marshall coach Ron Jirsa. "What was a very good effort, we just couldn't close it out."
Marshall is now 3-15 overall and 0-9 in MAC play. The Herd goes on the road to play at Northern Illinois on Thursday evening. Game time is 8:05pm Eastern time, 7:05 Central time.