Marshall would not rid themselves of the pesky Bulls until late in the game. "We fought through some difficulties to play our best basketball in the last four minutes," offered up MU coach Royce Chadwick.
"We just didn't get consistency in our flow of the game."
That inconsistency lead to a stinker of a first half, which saw Marshall shoot just 37.9% from the floor (11-of-29) while UB hit 43.5% (10-of-23) including 3-of-5 three-pointers. The end result was a slim one-point Marshall lead at the half, 26-25.
Kim Griffin's three with 16:59 left in the game gave Marshall a 10-point lead at 39-29. Buffalo would battle back over the next 10 minutes, however, and UB's Brooke Meunier hit a three with 6:48 left to get UB within five at 51-46.
Then, Chadwick's team suddenly decided to play basketball.
"Nothing's falling, and you just have to fight hard in those kinds of games," Chadwick said.
Marshall's Crystal Champion had a rough time hauling down this rebound over Buffalo's Brooke Meunier on Saturday.
Mary Pat Statler scored 7 of her 11 points in the second half, going a perfect 5-of-5 from the field. Chadwick had started Statler, hoping to shake the lineup and get Statler to produce points. The ploy worked.
"At one point I told her, 'You're going to have to shoot the ball or come out of the game,' " Chadwick said of Statler.
Key moment of the game occured with 3:30 left. Sikeetha Shepard-Hall picked off a UB pass and ran the length of the floor. Hall was fouled hard by UB's Belinda Gibb and hit the floor hard enough to have to leave the game. Statler stepped in and shot the free throws, hitting one-of-two. Marshall grabbed the miss, and Statler hit a jumper to effectively seal the win by shooting The Herd back out to a 58-46 lead.
"I'm sore, a little bit," Shepard-Hall said of the aftereffect of the hard foul. The extended timeout after the foul gave Chadwick time to get his team's collective head screwed on the right way, using the foul as motivation.
"It was another one of those timeouts where we decided where we wanted the game to go," said Shepard-Hall. Marshall rattled off the final 8 points of the game, holding Buffalo scoreless in that stretch.
"Nothing comes easy in February," Chadwick said. "It's not supposed to be easy in February."
Shepard-Hall led Marshall in scoring with 23 points, Kim Griffin added 16 and 5 assists, while Statler answered Chadwick's call to the tune of 11 points. Marshall finished shooting 47.4% (27-of-57) including a 53.8% night from three (7-of-18). The Herd held Buffalo to just 36.2% (17-of-47), with Brooke Meunier (16 points) and Allison Bennett (12 points) doing most of the damage.
On defense, Marshall stole the ball an eye-popping 12 times from Buffalo, and forced a total of 19 UB turnovers with Meunier leading the way with 8 of them.
Marshall is still atop the MAC East division with their 17-7 overall record (11-2 in the conference). Buffalo drops to 4-20 overall and 2-11 in the MAC with the loss. Next up for The Herd is a February 23 showdown at MAC West leading Bowling Green at 7pm.
"We'll just go up there and see what happens," said Chadwick of the battle for the MAC at Bowling Green next week.