"For most of the game, we played better than them," said Marshall's Mark Patton, who led The Herd in scoring with 21 points. "We've been playing well the past few games, and we're going to keep playing that way."
Patton was correct. So correct that the first half story is easy to write; Marshall out-shot the Colonials by a margin of one basket in the first half, and that bucket came courtesy of Markel Humphrey's three at the buzzer that put MU out in front by a 33-32 margin. Humphrey would finish with a career (for a freshman) night, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. In that first half, Marshall was out in front but for a 55-second stretch before Humphrey's three.
"A lot of people probably thought we were going to get blown out by the number nineteen team in the nation," Humphrey said afterward. "But we came out with confidence, believed in ourselves, and played really good."
Marshall's Travis Aikens drove past GW's Carl Elliott in the first half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The second half saw much of the same action as the first half. Patton scored six of his 21 points early in the half, and Humphrey drained two free throws to give MU their largest lead of the game at twelve, 51-39 with 7:36 left. GW began the press-and-foul routine soon thereafter, and Marshall failed to take advantage on the line. The Herd would hit only 11-of-23 free throws in the second half, while GW managed to whittle away at the lead slowly. Mike Hall's three with 2:29 cut the lead to 57-54, and GW's Carl Elliott drained another three with just :19 left to tie the game at 64 apiece.
"I thought at that point, Marshall was playing not to lose the game and they stopped being aggressive and stopped attacking," noted GW coach Karl Hobbs.
Elliott mistakenly thought Marshall was still leading, and fouled MU's Mark Dorris on the inbounds pass. However, Dorris couldn't convert the free throws and the game was sent to overtime.
"Those numbers don't lie, you've got to get it done," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa of his team's free throw shooting woes late in regulation.
GW's Pops Mensah-Bonsu took control in overtime, hitting a layup with 1:21 left that kept GW's lead at a slim three points, 72-69. "He really asserted himself at the end," said MU coach Jirsa of Mensah-Bonsu. MU's Patton drained a short jumper to get The Herd back within one at 72-71 with :59 left. The critical moment came on the following GW possession, when MU's Dorris fouled Danilo Pinnock and was called for the intentional foul. Patton —apparently thinking the foul was on him and being his fifth— shoved GW's Mike Hall and was called for the technical foul.
Any momentum The Herd had at that point effetively disappeared. GW hit four-of-six free throws down the stretch to seal the 79-73 final margin.
"We've got to make the foul shots," Jirsa said. "It's very simple at that point. We're not getting shots, they're fouling us in the press. They got high percentage shots and we missed free throws. That's not going to go in your favor." Marshall failed to hit any of their six free throws in overtime.
Tre Whitted heads upcourt after this steal of GW's Pops Mensah-Bonsu in the second half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
But in the end, Marshall was simply done in by a more experienced and nationally-ranked Colonial team. And GW coach Karl Hobbs didn't refrain from pointing that out, all the while heaping praise on The Herd.
"The experience of our team was the difference in the game tonight," Hobbs said in the post game press conference. "When I look at this Marshall team, it reminds me of when these guys [GW] were freshmen and sophomores." Hobbs noted that Marshall "
And then, Hobbs laid an unexpected compliment on Marshall.
"I thought they were doing everything right. I thought they were playing with a great deal of energy. I thought they were playing with poise," Hobbs continued. "I'm not going to play them two years from now, because I know how good they're going to be."
Marshall is now an even 6-6 as the team heads into Conference USA play next week at Central Florida. GW bumped up to 10-1 overall with the overtime win.
After nearly walking away with the upset special of the year, Marshall's Mark Patton saw some form of silver lining after the game.
" We've been playing well the past few games, and we're going to keep playing that way," Patton summed up. "It was great to see our crowd out there (4,415 announced). I'd love to see a crowd like that every night."