"It's been coming," MU coach Ron Jirsa said of The Herd's short —but sweet, at least for Jirsa— winning streak of two games in a row. Fresh off a six-game losing streak, Jirsa will take it. "I attribute it to working together as a group."
And Marshall got the win by shoring up shortcomings that had hampered them all season long: free throws and offensive rebounds. In fact, MU grabbed a spectacular 20 offensive rebounds against the Eagles, and hit a solid 22-of-29 free throws. In short, they did everything well.
"Twenty offensive rebounds is difficult to overcome," added Eastern Michigan coach Jim Boone. "The effort they [Marshall] put into the offensive glass was the difference."
A slim 37-36 halftime lead by Marshall slowly turned into a seven point lead, 59-52, with 6:21 left in the game. Two consecutive possesions following that point would effectively put the game away for The Herd. David Anderson grabbed an offensive rebound of a missed A.W. Hamilton jumper and turned it into a high-flying dunk. Eastern Michigan's James Jackson was picked by Mark Patton, and Patton took the ball in from mid-court for a second dunk.
Before you knew it, Marshall was up nine at 63-54.
Patton scored a team-high 21 points and blocked two shots. Butone was bigger than the steal and subsequent dunk.
"That's when we're playing our best," Patton said. "Getting everyone involved."
"He really anchors us down," MU coach Jirsa described of Patton. "He just continues to listen and learn."
Eastern Michigan began the foul-and-hope game early, with two minutes remaining and Marshall up 66-58. The Herd answered the call, however, hitting 13-of-16 free throws in the final two minutes to keep Eastern Michigan at bay. EMU never got closer than the final margin of six points, which came via a Michael Ross layup with :10 to go.
"There wasn't any point where I felt we were going to lose," said MU guard A.W. Hamilton. Hamilton hit six of the final free throws, and finished with 12 points, 7 assists. Patton led the scoring for Marshall with 21 points, Enoch Bunch came off the bench to the tune of 15 points, as did David Anderson for 12 points.
Anderson summed up the mini-streak best. "Everybody's on the same page," he said. "We're used to playing from behind, so when we're ahead it's tough [for the other team]."
Eastern Michigan is now 10-12 overall and 3-9 in the MAC. Marshall stands at 5-16 overall and 2-10 in the MAC. The Herd now hits the road for a two-game stretch, visiting Western Michigan this Saturday at 2pm, then playing at Miami (Ohio) next Tuesday night at 7pm.