Marshall took advantage of Memphis' strength -the inbounds press- in the first half. Excellent guard play enabled Marshall to break the Tigers' press and get the ball in the hands of Markel Humphrey. Humphrey connected on 5-of-6 from the field for 12 points in the first half (including two threes). Mark Dorris hit a jumper with 10:21 left that gave Marshall the scratch-your-head lead of 9 points, 28-19.
"It wasn't us playing over our heads in the first half, it was something that we're highly capable of doing again and again," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa.
Marshall's Joe Miles hit the floor for this loose ball in the first half, in front of Memphis guard Andre Allen.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall's LaVar Carter also had a hand in the Herd's first half success. With Mark Patton in early foul trouble, Carter came in and provided 8 points in the paint that helped maintain the Marshall lead. Memphis finished the half with a 9-2 run —consider it a preview of the second half— to close the gap to just one point, 44-43, at the break.
"We haven't had that many teams that we've played that were as prepared as this team [Marshall] was for us," Memphis coach John Calipari added. "Did you notice…I'm going to say this…that may be the first team that we've backed off the press. Couldn't press them. If we pressed them, we were losing this game."
In the second half, Memphis did just what Calipari wanted and backed off the press. The result was a half-court explosion by the Tigers' Darius Washington. Washington's layup with 16:09 left in the game gave Memphis the lead for good, and was smack in the middle of a 23-6 run in which Washington scored almost half —11 points — of the Tigers' output. That blitz put Memphis up by a commanding 75-58 margin with 10:29 to go.
"They do that just about every game, go on one of their patented runs," said Marshall's Mark Patton. "It's tough to rebound from that."
"That's the story right there," added Marshall's coach Jirsa. "That run was the spread that we could never close."
Mark Dorris drove past Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts in the first half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
However, Marshall wasn't finished. Not yet.
Markel Humphrey added a three and a dunk on the next two MU possessions. Memphis countered with a Rodney Carney three to extend the lead back out to 19 points, at 86-67. Patton scored 9 points in the game's final five minutes, but Marshall could never get closer than the game's final margin, 10 points. Adam Zimmerman drained a three with just :09 left to set the game's final 91-81 score.
"How about they didn't give up?" Calipari summed up of Marshall. "That could have been a 25, 30 point game. They came back at us."
Marshall finished the game shooting 48.3% (28-of-58) from the field, led by Markel Humphrey's career-high 19 points. Patton added 13, and guard Chris Ross scored 10 and dished out 7 assists. Memphis outrebounded The Herd by a 38-31 margin, and the Tigers had five players in double figures led by Washington and Carney each with 20, followed by Robert Dozier (13 points), Shawne Williams (12) and Antonio Anderson with 10.
"We executed down the stretch a little better. Dozier played so well, he kept us right there in the game," added Calipari.
Tre Whitted tried to draw the charge against the Tigers' Shawne Williams.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
In the end, the #3 team in all the land did what it is known for: scoring points in decisive fashion. However, Marshall put up more fight than most Memphis opponents this year, that much was admitted to by the Tigers' Calipari. In front of a capacity crowd none the less, a rarity in Huntington. A second win over a ranked team this season (Marshall beat then-#9 WVU in late January) loomed on the horizon, but Memphis displayed an athletic edge in the second half that the Tigers are well known for.
"Memphis has an explosive team and they were able to run us," MU coach Jirsa summed up. "I think we hit the wall about 7 or 8 minutes into the second half, and it was difficult for us to overcome that run."
Memphis now has a stellar 22-2 overall record with the win (a perfect 8-0 in C-USA action), and Marshall drops to 9-13 (2-7 C-USA) with the loss. Next up for The Herd is a road trip to play SMU on Wednesday evening in Dallas.