"It's March and we've got something else to play for," said MU guard Sikeetha Shepard-Hall. She chocked up offense when there was none on the Marshall end early in the first half, and finished with a game-high 24 points. "The MAC Championship title is what we're playing for."
Akron took the lead early, and held it most of the way through the first half. Marshall coach Royce Chadwick summoned a pressing defense to force turnovers, and it worked. The press held Akron scoreless the last 4:03 of the half and resulted in five quick steals, three by MU guard Teyonka Hodge. With 1:17 left and the flurry over, Marshall was up 34-24 (which was the halftime score as well) and had the game in hand.
Reshundra Smiley applied defense to Akron's Krissy Marco. Marshall forced 19 turnovers in the 65-49 win over the Zips.
"We had to go defense to create offense," said Marshall coach Royce Chadwick. "It really turned the game around for us."
Hodge would finish the game with 7 of Marshall's 14 steals from Akron. Those 14 steals were the majority of the Zips' 19 turnovers on the night.
In the second half, Marshall weathered a spirited run by Akron. Jessie Crooks and Jae Conn hit threes to get Akron with four points of Marshall at 46-42, with 9:04 left in the game. "That's their game," said MU coach Royce Chadwick of Akron's threes. However, MU's Sikeetha Shepard-Hall kept up her scoring ways (she scored 15 in the first half), hitting two threes and extending The Herd's lead out to 57-46.
"We had to keep fighting and do it the blue collar way," quipped Chadwick. "We had some answers for their [Akron's] threes."
Marshall coach Royce Chadwick applauded as he watched his players cut down the net after clinching a share of the MAC East Division by beating Akron, 65-49.
Teyonka Hodge added her seventh steal late in the game, and tossed in the free throw to seal Marshall's 65-49 winning margin. In addition to Shepard-Hall's 17 points, Marshall got double-figure output from Crystal Champion and Huntington native KaShawna Curry with 10 points apiece. Curry also hauled in 11 rebounds, the only player in double digits.
"I think we got a shot of confidence back," summed up Chadwick of the win that came after an unusual two-loss road trip last week. "March games…you just try to win 'em."
Following the game, the Marshall players and coaches celebrated their MAC East Division co-championship by cutting down the net in the Henderson Center. "Some of these girls have been here a couple years, and haven't cut down anything," said Chadwick afterward. "Our team fought through a lot."