"We go out every night and depend on our defense," said Marshall guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall. "It's got to be there."
And it was there against Kent State. The Herd forced a remarkable 24 turnovers against the Golden Flashes –including 10 steals– which lead to 25 points. An 11-0 run at the end of the first half effectively sealed the Flashes' fate, and MU took a comfortable 44-32 lead at the break.
Guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall took control in the first half, scoring 10 points en route to yet another 20-point performance. She would be joined by four other Marshall players in double figures.
Sikeetha Shepard-Hall drove past Kent State's Kerrie James on Wednesday evening.
The second half was almost a runaway for Marshall. KaShawna Curry's fast break layup with 12:05 left gave Marshall their biggest lead of 22 points, at 65-43.
"We played real well, for about 28 minutes," said Marshall coach Royce Chadwick. "We relaxed a little, and they took advantage of it."
Kent State took advantage of the somewhat-lax Marshall defense. KSU's Lindsay Shearer hit a three with 3:47 left to cut the Marshall lead to only eight points, at 70-62. Marshall's Kim Griffin answered the challenge with :59 left, hitting a critical three of her own to keep the Flashes at bay and extending the MU lead back to nine at 76-67.
"In the back of my mind, I was thinking 'I've got to make this shot,' " said Griffin of her late three-pointer. Griffin overcame a 100-degree fever the morning of the game to finish with 17 points in her 30 minutes of action.
The final minute was a free throw shooting contest of sorts, and Marshall stepped up the plate, hitting 8-of-10 in the final minute.
"It pretty much was the free throws," said MU guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall of the final minute of the game. "We stepped up and hit them."
In addition to Shepard-Hall's 20 points and Griffin's 17, guard Teyonka Hodge also finished with 17, Crystal Champion scored 13, and KaShawna Curry added 10 points. Hodge also dished out 6 assists, while Hall and Reshundra Smiley each made three steals during the game.
With his team on a veritable roll in the Mid-American Conference, coach Royce Chadwick now looks ahead to the waiting Miami RedHawks. Marshall has never beat Miami at Millett Hall, and the showdown this Saturday at 2pm is the second act of Chadwick's attack on the only two conference teams (Kent and Miami) that have beaten The Herd this season.
"When somebody slaps you, you slap 'em back," Chadwick said after the Kent win.
Marshall is now 12-7 overall, 6-2 in the MAC. Kent State drops to 12-8 overall and 5-4 in the conference.