The first half was a different kind of 'b' word: bored. Between the 8:32 mark and 2:58, a grand total of seven points were scored in the game. All by Marshall. UB's Parnell Smith broke the silence with a free throw to put Buffalo ahead, 25-20.
"I don't think we were sharp in the beginning, like we should have been," said MU guard A.W. Hamilton. "Mentally, at the beginning of the game, we just weren't there."
All this came after Buffalo appeared to be off to the races, and Marshall missed the starting call. UB's Turner Battle scored 8 of the Bulls' first 12 points en route to a 24-13 lead before the drought set in.
A.W. Hamilton collided with Buffalo's Roderick Middleton during the second half of UB's 68-55 win on February 23, 2005 at the Henderson Center. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall trailed Buffalo by a 31-23 margin at the half. Neither team could be termed 'sizzling', with Buffalo shooting 42.9% (12-of-28) and Marshall right behind at 35.0% (7-of-20).
"Our legs were a little heavy," said Buffalo guard Turner Battle. He would go on to finish as high-scorer with 21 points. "And now [late February] is no time to be fatigued." Turner and UB were fresh off a cross-country jaunt last weekend to play Fresno State in ESPN's Bracket Buster series of games.
In the second half, Marshall cut the UB lead to only five, 42-37, with the aid of threes by Tre Whitted and Joe Miles. Buffalo's Roderick Middleton turned the tide and effectively ended the game over the span of just 38 seconds. Middleton quickly converted two Marshall turnovers (both teams had 16) into transition three-pointers, and just like that, Buffalo was in the lead for good, 48-37. "That's six points they didn't have to earn," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa.
"They left me open," said Middleton of the two quick threes.
"When he's playing aggressively, the pressure is on the opponent to stop him," added Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon of Middleton.
Buffalo shifted their offense inside after that, and big men Mark Bortz (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Daniel Gilbert (7 rebounds) went to work. The duo combined for 8 of the 19 UB offensive rebounds in the game.
"Very difficult to counter," Marshall coach Ron Jirsa said of the UB duo's offensive rebounds.
Marshall's A.W. Hamilton would lead the scoring for Marshall with 12 points, followed by Mark Patton and Tre Whitted, each with 11 points. The Herd shot 42.0% for the game (21-of-50) including a sub-par 20% from three (3-of-15).
"We just didn't have that 'zip' that we've had," added MU coach Jirsa. "They [UB] wore us out."
Marshall stands at 5-19 overall, 2-13 in the MAC while Buffalo shoots up to a healthy 18-7 overall and 10-6 in the conference. The Herd next faces the Ohio Bobcats this Saturday at the Henderson Center at 7pm.