Mark Patton was 8-for-11 from the floor and added five rebounds. Chris Ross, Marshall's junior point guard, led the Herd on the glass with six rebounds. "We have guys capable of doing that," said Patton, when asked about Marshall's balance. "We have lots of great scorers. We are capable of putting up some points and today we played as a team. It shows when you play together you come out on top."
The Herd had its best shooting performance of the season, knocking in 44.6 percent of its shots. Marshall also posted its best three-point percentage so far in 2005-06, making 8-of-19 shots (42.1 percent) from beyond-the-arc. Marshall (3-3) fell down early after another slow start and trailed until Joe Miles hit a three-pointer with 6:12 to go in the first half to put the Herd up, 29-28. MU maintained its lead for the rest of the period and went into the halftime break with a 40-38 lead. The Herd was led by Patton's 10 first-half points.
"This was an important game mentally with this break and I wanted us to play hard and I think we played hard," said Herd head coach Ron Jirsa. The Penguins charged into the second half with a 8-2 run and took the lead, 46-42, with 17:15 to play in regulation. Four minutes later, YSU's Dominique Crawford added a lay-up to put the Penguins ahead, 51-46, to give Youngstown State its largest lead since the 9:43 mark in the first half.
Momentum then switched to the Herd, as Marshall closed the Youngstown State advantage and then took the lead, 54-52, on a Travis Aikens three-pointer with 9:40 to go in regulation. YSU evened the score at 54 on two free throws by Dominique Crawford, and then Aikens responded again, this time with a dunk to put Marshall on top 56-54. The Penguins' Derrick Harris then knocked in a tying jumper to knot the score at 56 with 7:49 to play. From that point on, Marshall controlled the action. The Herd went on a 10-2 run to take command of the contest, and held on late to keep the Penguins on ice.
"We were able to hold them when we didn't shoot the ball in the second half," said Jirsa. "That is one of the things we talked about and it doesn't go away when we win." "I thought that our kids played very hard all night," said Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum. "We scrapped; we were the first to the floor on a lot of loose balls. We had a few missed opportunities - we had five possessions when it was a two point game that we did not get anything out of. We missed two open shots and had three turnovers and that was the ball game. They also made some plays."
For YSU, Quin Humphrey, brother of Marshall forward Markel Humphrey, tallied a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. John Barber scored 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, and Keston Roberts and Dominique Crawford each added 10 points, respectively. Over 20 members of the Humphrey family came to Huntington from Georgia to watch the brothers play against each other for the first time, wearing shirts with both Youngstown State and Marshall logos on the front and green number four (Markel) and red number two (Quin) on the back of the shirts.
The Herd is currently on a nearly two-week break until its next contest, a Saturday, December 17, tilt with former Southern Conference rival Appalachian State in the Henderson Center at 7:00 p.m. That is followed by the final game of the current four-game homestand when Charleston Southern comes in on December 20 for a game that will be the last before a nine day Christmas break.
"We have 12 days off when we take our finals. Our finals are very important," said Jirsa. "For us and our basketball team, it is much needed to go into the 12-day break having won. From here, we can continue and move forward and get ourselves on the winning side of things. Then, it will really feel like we have made another step. This was an important game mentally with this break and I wanted us to play hard and I think we played hard." Marshall will finish play in December in Greenville, South Carolina, at the tournament of another former Southern Conference foe, the Purple Paladins of Furman, when Marshall meets South Carolina State in the first round of the Furman Invitational on December 29. The Herd will play either FU or Kennesaw State on December 30, then be off until January 4, 2006, when they repay the Mountaineers of Appalachian State with a trip to Boone, North Carolina.