"He's a very good player, but he scored nine points more than his average," Marshall coach Ron Jirsa said after the game of Thompson. "And a lot of it was, I thought we didn't get back and play with a sense of urgency against a very good player."
That 'sense of urgency' means getting back on defense, which Marshall did little of against the Mountaineers. And that led to ASU hitting 44.9% of their shots (22-of-49 including 6-of-20 from three) in the first win for ASU at Marshall since the two schools played in the Southern Conference together. In fact, ASU came into the game with a 1-15 record against Marshall in Huntington.
In the first half, Marshall appeared to be in command early on. The Herd would lead by as many as 8 points when Joe Miles drove the lane for a layup with 9:14 left, 21-13. Miles would go on to lead Marshall in scoring, hitting 3-of-12 from the field and 8-of-11 free throws en route to a 15-point night. Trouble is, Miles was the only MU player to finish in double figures.
Marshall guard Chris Ross drove the lane for two of his six points in the loss to Appalachian State.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"It's a combination of things. Some shots may have been rushed," Miles admitted of MU's lackluster 14-of-40 first half shooting. "We had a lot of open shots, ran our stuff well for the most part. It's kind of frustrating when the kind of shots we normally make don't fall down. Some nights, you have nights like that."
Appalachian State went on a 19-10 run to finish the first half, and D.J. Thompson finished the half with 12 points to give ASU the 38-35 lead at the break.
In the second half, ASU never extended their lead beyond 6 points for the most part. With the Mountaineers up 50-44 with 14:55 left in the game, MU's Markel Humphrey drained a three to cut the ASU lead to just three. When Joe Miles hit a three with 8:44 left to cut the ASU lead to 55-53, momentum was on Marshall's side or so it appeared.
From that mark forward, what can only be described as a free-throw shooting contest erupted at the Henderson Center. Marshall's last basket from the field would be Miles' three mentioned earlier, with misses by Tre Whitted and Mark Patton the only other shots from the floor for Marshall. The Herd hit 11-of-15 free throws over the last 8 minutes of the game, while Appalachian State hit 8-of-8 in the final minutes.
Joe Miles led Marshall with 15 points in the loss to Appalachian State, including these two on a scoop shot in the lane in the second half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
ASU's Thompson added 13 points in the second half on top of his 12 first half points to finish with 25, the game's high scorer. The 5-8, 170 pound guard from Raleigh, North Carolina used his quickness to penetrate and score or dish out one of his six assists on the night, in a nutshell. "He's the focal point of their offense," said MU guard Joe Miles of Thompson, whom Miles guarded much of the evening. "They have a lot of stuff that runs through him. It was pretty tough chasing him around, when I was guarding him."
But Miles —despite a solid night with 15 points— put the blame squarely on his team's shoulders for the loss. "We didn't shoot the ball well at all," Miles added. "Missed a lot of chip shots, layups." Miles then countered that Appalachian State "knocked down their free throws and ran their stuff."
LaVar Carter added 9 points for Marshall, Travis Aikens had 8 points, and Mark Patton scored 7. Marshall shot just 54.8% from the free throw line (17-of-31), while Appalachian State shot 79.3% (23-of-29), pretty much the difference in the game.
"Don't know that it was very pretty," summed up ASU coach Houston Fancher. His Mountaineers improved to 4-5 overall with the win.
"We certainly have to out-work and out-hustle the other team, and we did not in any area," Marshall coach Ron Jirsa summed up. His team dropped to 3-4 overall with the loss. "We didn't have the second and third effort when we needed it on the defensive end."
Marshall next plays on Tuesday night, when Charleston Southern visits the Henderson Center for a 7pm contest.