"Even though we did the job on the boards, we failed to take care of the basketball, which takes away your domination on the glass," said Marshall coach Greg White. Marshall did out-rebound the Bobcats 42-20.
In the first half, it was all the Ron Blackshear show. The transfer guard lit up the Bobcats with 24 points, carrying the load for MU's Tamar Slay, who was called for his third foul at the 8:45 mark. Blackshear's three-pointer with 5:11 remaining pulled Marshall to within seven points of OU, 38-31. But Steve Esterkamp's three pulled Ohio back out to a 44-33 lead, and teammate Sonny Johnson's buzzer-beater basket gave the Bobcats a comfy 49-35 lead at the half.
Marshall's Ardo Armpalu saw his first action of the year when he entered the game with 4:38 left in the first half.
"Ronald did a good job," White added. "But we've just got to be stronger in the post."
In the second half, Marshall slowly, agonizingly, cut back into the Ohio lead. Slay, making up for lost time in the first half, scored 7 points in the half's first 2 minutes. Marshall did get the deficit down to single digits when J.R. VanHoose hit two free throws with 10:29 left to make it a 70-69 game. Monty Wright's three-pointer at the 8:07 mark enabled Marshall to get within 7, at 74-67.
Ohio's Esterkamp kept draining the threes, and he hit his seventh of the game with 3:26 left. That one put the nail in the Herd's coffin, 90-73, and effectively put the game away. Esterkamp set a new Ohio record with 9 steals in the game, putting on a display needed with the absence of teammate Brandon Hunter, who was suspended for the game.
"It's difficult in this leage, if somebody has you (down) double figures, to come back, " summed up MU coach Greg White. "I don't care who it is, it's just too much of a deficit."
Ron Blackshear continued his hot shooting streak, leading all Marshall scorers with 30 points. Tamar Slay bounced back from early foul trouble to finish with 14, Latece Williams (10 points, 11 rebounds) and J.R. VanHoose (10 points, 10 rebounds) both notched double-doubles in the losing effort. Marshall shot 50% (27-of-53) for the game, and hit 86% (13-of-15) of their free throws.
But make no mistake about it: On this day, OU's Steve Esterkamp had the Herd's number. Marshall only has to wait 14 days to seek revenge, though, as the Bobcats will visit Huntington on February 16.
Marshall is now an even 10-10 overall, 5-5 in MAC play. The Herd hosts Akron this Tuesday evening at the Henderson Center in Huntington.