UAB coach Mike Anderson found a winning formula in the tried-and-true pick-and-roll play in the first half. Marshall's interior defense was unable to adjust, and Holmes hit a perfect 7-of-7 shots en route to a 17-point half, most using the age-old play.
"Marshall was paying a whole lot of attention to Marvett [McDonald] and our perimeter guys, which allowed them to roll to the basket," said Anderson. "We figured out something that was working, and we went to it."
"All I really had to do was catch the ball and finish. Once it kept working, we stuck with it," said Holmes, who blew past his career high in points about 17 minutes into the first half.
Marshall's Ryan Lamb made this steal from UAB's Marvett McDonald in the first half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall last took the lead in the first half when Mark Dorris drained a three with 5:25 left, giving The Herd a 24-22 lead. UAB then went on a 13-4 run to end the half, capped by Marvett McDonald's buzzer-beating three that put the Blazer up by a 35-26 margin at the half.
"That kind of gave us a boost.," said McDonald of the three at the buzzer. "It got the team going."
"I think it was a big basket. It put us down nine," added MU's Markel Humphrey of McDonald's shot. "Going into the half, we really didn't need that. We really didn't need him to hit that shot, and I think that boosted their confidence even more."
But Marshall was far from finished at this point. One of Holmes' easy layups (he finished the night a perfect 9-of-9 for 22 points) with 14:22 gave UAB a 10-point lead, at 49-39. Marshall then mounted a slow-and-steady comeback over the next three minutes. The Herd's 7-0 run featured baskets by Travis Aikens and Mark Patton, accented with a Dorris three. That cut the UAB lead to just three, 49-49, with 11:27 left. It would be the closest The Herd would get to the Blazers.
"It was real frustrating. We tried our best to hang in the game, but shots weren't falling and we didn't get rebounds," said MU's Markel Humphrey. "They pressed the whole game, and that slowed the game down for us. We weren't playing on our terms."
Travis Aikens dunked for two of his 16 points. UAB's Marvett McDonald watches.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Joe Miles hit a three with 3:19 left to get Marshall back within six, at 62-56. UAB responded by hitting a perfect 12-for-12 free throws in the game's final 2:06 to seal the win.
Marshall was led in scoring by Aikens, with 16 points. Joe Miles added 12, and Markel Humphrey continued his improving ways with 10 points. The Herd shot 40% from the field (24-of-60), but just 60% from the free throw line (9-of-15). UAB was led by Holmes' 22, matched by teammate Marvett McDonald. Paul Delaney added 14 points for the Blazers, while veteran guard Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson dished out 9 assists.
UAB coach Mike Anderson pointed out the difference in this Marshall team compared to previous teams he's played.
"His [Jirsa] team came out and played with a lot of fight, a lot of tenacity," Anderson said of The Herd.
Marshall now goes on the road for a Wednesday night game at Tulsa.