It was eerily similar to the West Virginia game last week, but minus the fire drill. Marshall came out in the first half and shot out to a lead of nine, 26-17. However, Ball State's Rob Robbins had answers in the form of three-pointers, and the Cardinals quickly turned Marshall's 9-point lead into a one-point deficit. Marshall shot out again to a 6-point lead, but Ball State's Chris Williams sank three free throws after being fouled by MU's Monty Wright outside the circle.
Ball State was down only one, 41-40, at the half.
The Cards' Matt McCollom played the hero at the end of regulation play, hitting a three-pointer with only :05 remaining to tie the game at 76-76 and force the first overtime. No fire alarms were pulled in an effort to stave off the visiting teams' lead, it should be noted.
MU's Ron Blackshear scored 5 of Marshall's 10 points in the first overtime. Monty Wright played hero and drained two free throws with only :03 left to knot the Cards and the Herd once again, this time at 86-86.
"I just stepped up, made my shots, and knocked 'em down," said Monty Wright of the two clutch free throws. "We shoot so many free throws in practice. It's just a rhythm shot."
Marshall's Monty Wright drives past Ball State's Lonnie Jones.
And in the second OT, it was Wright's three-pointer that enabled Marshall to take the early lead at 89-86. Ball State's Matt McCollom drained a three with only 2:37 left to knot it at 89-apiece. Ball State assumed their last lead of the game at 92-91 on Chris Williams' basket. But MU's Ronny Dawn ran a screen off the right corner and hit the go-ahead three-pointer with :47 left.
"I knew these guys (VanHoose and Wright) were going to step up, too," commented Ron Blackshear of Marshall's play in the two overtimes.
The Cards just wouldn't die, though. BSU's Chris Wllliams tied the game back up at 95-95 with a clutch three-pointer, 31 seconds remaining on the clock. Williams would turn the ball over and MU's Latece Williams got the steal. A quick dish to Blackshear from Monty Wright at the top of the circle led to the game-winning three-pointer with only :01 left to play. "That's a tough position to be in, to have to go the distance and need a three," said MU coach Greg White. It was Blackshear's 33rd point of the night, a career high for the transfer from Temple.
"I"m glad he made it, because I wouldn't have lasted another overtime," said an exhausted J.R. VanHoose of Blackshear's game-winner in the second overtime.
"That's two huge wins for our team," summed up Marshall coach Greg White.
Blackshear led all MU scorers with 33, while J.R. VanHoose (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Latece Williams (11 points, 10 rebounds) both notched double-doubles, a rare feat. Monty Wright drained 16 points and dished 5 assists from the point guard spot, while Tamar Slay had 13 points but fouled out in overtime.
Marshall gets their 10th win of the year, improving to 10-9 overall and 4-5 in MAC play. Front-runner Ball State falls to 13-7 overall and 6-3 in the MAC. Marshall now prepares to square off with the Ohio University Bobcats this Saturday afternoon in Athens, Ohio.