"This time, we were on the upside of the shooting," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa of The Herd's 49.1% (26-of-53) performance. "We've got our roles more defined."
Those roles enabled Marshall to quickly overcome a ECU five-point lead at the very start of the game. Marshall went into fast-break mode, and shot out to a 10-point, 19-9 lead, after the 19-4 fast break run in the game's first seven minutes.
"We were able to run and get some easy baskets," said Marshall center Mark Patton, who finished the game with 17 points to lead all scorers.
"We kind of surprised ourselves a little bit," MU coach Jirsa added of the early fast-break success.
Mark Patton blocked this shot by East Carolina's Jonathan Hart.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Markel Humphrey's dunk with 7:19 would give Marshall their largest lead of the night at 13 points, 27-14. However, ECU trimmed that down to just 33-28 at the half courtesy of a 14-6 run to end the half.
The first half saw the debut of Marshall's Jean Francois Bro Grebe, playing his first action for The Herd after a leg injury in the off-season. Bro Grebe impressed in his debut, scoring seven points in just nine minutes of action.
"Those long arms can do a lot of things," added MU coach Jirsa of Bro Grebe's debut in a Marshall uniform.
In the second half, East Carolina would get so close as to tie the game at 36-36 with 18:17 left. However, the Pirates were never able to overcome The Herd and take the lead. Marshall kept the lead in the six-to-seven point range for the rest of the half, with Patton scoring 13 of his 17 points in that time frame.
Just when ECU pulled within two points at 54-52, Marshall's Bro Grebe provided the highlight of his debut. Tre Whitted grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed Joe Miles three, and pitched the ball straight into Bro Grebe for a solid dunk.
"I knew he was going to give it to me," said Bro Grebe of Whitted's assist. "It felt great. I was excited for this moment."
Jean Francois Bro Grebe debuted for Marshall against East Carolina, capped with this dunk in the second half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Patton's basket with 3:38 left would be Marshall's last, and The Herd then went on a 7-of-8 free throw shooting spree to hold off the determined Pirates. ECU's Corey Rouse pulled the Pirates within three at 69-66, but the last gasp faded with one free throw by MU's Miles and two by Patton for the final 72-66 margin.
"We've been shooting a lot of free throws," Patton alluded after the game.
"When any team does that [7-of-8 free throws in the final minute], it's a huge advantage," Jirsa added.
Marshall shot 49.1% (26-of-53) in the game from the field, including 25% (4-of-16) from three. The Herd hit 16-of-24 free throws (66.7%) as well.
The win bumped Marshall up in C-USA standing to 9-10 overall, 2-4 in the conference. ECU falls to 7-13 and 1-6, respectively.
Next up for The Herd is a Saturday road game against Tulane.