"I could see what was developing down here," Miami coach Charlie Coles said of Marshall. "I was hoping they'd quit, but they didn't. That's a great story."
And that great story was told on Saturday by four Marshall seniors who refused to go out with a loss in their final home game. Junior Mark Patton was the final piece of the puzzle, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against the RedHawks.
"If you're going to play their [Miami] game, you've got to be better at their game," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa. "We had to make sure we made the defense work."
A.W. Hamilton tipped in this missed Tre Whitted shot in the first half over Miami's Doug Penno(1).
"I'm happy for our seniors," added Jirsa, who beat Miami for the first time in four tries since coming on board at Marshall. "The seniors had a big influence on this game."
The Thundering Herd never trailed against Miami (18-9, 12-6 MAC), and there were only two ties in the game. Patton scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, and Marshall nailed their biggest lead (25-16) on a Tre Whitted three with 4:22 left in the first half. The Herd claimed a 29-22 lead at the half.
"Too much inside," continued Miami coach Coles of Marshall's interior play. "They've got some good players inside. Patton is very good."
"Somebody in Huntington should have arrested him for not being good early [in the season]."
In the second half, Marshall utilized a zone defense to keep Miami off-balance, and forcing the RedHawks to rely solely on the three-point shot. Of the RedHawks' 52 shots in the game, 33 of them were three-point attempts.
Miami only made 10 of the 33 threes.
"That's what we need to do in the zone," Marshall coach Jirsa added. "We mixed in a little man-to-man, kept them off-balance."
Miami last tied the game at 32-32 with 16:09 left in the game. Marshall's Enoch Bunch came down the floor and drained a three on the next possession to take the lead back for good.
"That was a big shot," said Marshall guard A.W. Hamilton of Bunch's three.
Marshall guard Enoch Bunch kissed the mid-court Marshall logo after the 54-47 win over Miami. The game was Bunch's final home game.
Marshall also dominated the boards during the game, grabbing 41 rebounds to Miami's 34. Patton was the only double-digit rebounder with 11 in the game. The Herd turned those rebounds into 18 second-chance points.
"They outrebounded us by seven," summed up Miami's coach Coles. "Hey, that tells the story."
"The defense got it done," said Marshall's David Anderson. "They weren't doing anything inside, really."
Miami's Josh Hausfeld hit a three with 4:53 left in the game, and it would be the RedHawks' last basket. A.W. Hamilton went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute to extend Marshall's lead to the final 7-point margin of 54-47.
"It was a great way to end the season," Hamilton said afterwards. "We did a great job on the boards, never let them get over the hump."
"Our defense was phenomenal tonight."
Marshall improves to 6-21 overall and 3-15 in the MAC with the win, and now awaits the results of other games in conference play before finding out where they will play in Monday's first-round tournament games. In a season that was far from memorable, MU coach Ron Jirsa found solace in winning this late in the season, and actually found it humorous.
"We might be the only team in the country getting momentum off one win," Jirsa smiled.