Herd Opens CUSA With 57-54 Win Over ECU

The Marshall women's basketball team kicked off their inaugural season in CUSA in fine fashion on Friday night, dispatching the East Carolina Pirates by a 57-54 margin. Mary Pat Statler rose up to take the reins for The Herd, scoring 14 points...

And at the annual Jam The Cam attendance booster game (which attracted 1,855 fans), the game looked like anything but a win in the making in the first half for Marshall. Especially in the opening minutes. It took The Herd a whopping 6:47 of play before scoring their first basket. Mary Pat Statler took control to get Marshall on the board, hitting six of MU's first eight points after ECU jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead.

"Mary Pat took us on her shoulders for a little while until we got the rest of the group going," said Marshall coach Royce Chadwick. "We were as tight as a bass fiddle."

Marshall's Kendra King battled for a loose rebound against ECU's Nicole Days.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

Marshall would need the remainder of the first half to catch up with the Pirates. Reshundra Smiley's three with 4:16 left gave MU their first lead of the game at 19-16, but ECU's Jessica Slack answered with a three of her own to make MU's lead short-lived. However, from that point on Marshall went on a 8-0 run to end the half, highlighted by threes from both Statler and Bridget Chacon, and would take a solid 27-19 lead at the half.

"I know there's going to be these lapses on offense, and I wanted to let my younger teammates know that the game wasn't over in the first four minutes," said Statler of her first half performance.

ECU shot just 22.6 percent (7-of-31) from the floor in the first half, and Marshall didn't are much better at 27.3 (9-of-33). Statler's nine points led the way, and ECU had a trio (Cherie Mills, Jasmine Young, and Jessica Slack) with five points each.

The second half saw both teams move their scoring efforts to the paint. However, Marshall' largest leads of the half —10 points on two occasions— came on a three by Statler and a jumper by KaShawna Curry, who returned to action after suffering a leg injury earlier in the season. Marshall's Modupe Ishola and ECU's Cherie Mills would battle it out underneath in the second half.

Sikeetha Shepard-Hall avoided the trap by ECU's Jessica Slack in the first half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

After scoring just two points in the first half, MU's Ishola scored 11 more in the second half. Her counterpart, Mills, also led the way for the Pirates, scoring her game average 20 points after a lackluster five-point first half effort.

"I was so worried about her scoring on me that I forgot about me scoring," said MU's Ishola of ECU's Mills. "She was very good on the inside. Playing against her was good."

"Anybody came across the paint tonight and they got their jaw jacked," added Chadwick of the action in the paint in the second half.

Two turnovers by Marshall's Sikeetha Shepard-Hall enabled ECU to take their one and only lead of the second half, 48-47, with 4:10 left in the game. Shepard-Hall made amends for her turnovers just three minutes later, rocketing down the lane for an easy lay-in with 1:35 left that gave Marshall a five-point lead at 53-48.

"They were confident, and there's nothing like a confident basketball team," said Chadwick of ECU. "They're just 10 times harder to beat. When you go against a team like that, you've really got to play."

Crystal Champion did the same on MU's following possession with :39 left, and her layup kept the Herd's lead at five points, 55-50. Both Chacon and Statler hit free throws down the stretch to keep Marshall's lead intact, and ECU's Nicole Days hit a jumper as the buzzer sounded to seal the final score at 57-54 in favor of The Herd.

Chadwick noted the crowd at Jam The Cam V played a key role. "Without the people in the stands, I'm not sure we would have had the energy to finish the way we finished. They were feeding off the energy of the crowd," he said.

Three Marshall players scored in double figures with Statler (14), Ishola (13) and Shepard-Hall (12). Only ECU's Mills (20) and Slack (15) managed the same for the Pirates. Ishola added 10 rebounds for the double-double.

Marshall is now 5-3 overall, 1-0 in CUSA after the opening win, while ECU falls to 6-2, 0-1 respectively. The Herd has one more game before the Christmas break, traveling to play the Virginia Cavaliers on Tuesday night for a 7:00pm game.

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