Herd Clamps Down On So. Miss, 66-53 On Sunday

Modupe Ishola's sixth double-double of the season, and the 10th of her career at Marshall, and some suffocating defense by MU helped the Thundering Herd close out the 2005-06 regular season with a convincing 66-53 victory over Southern Miss on Sunday at the Cam Henderson Center. The win sealed at least a .500 season for the 14-13 Herd, who will enter the Conference USA tournament this week as the No. 5 seed.

No. 12 Memphis will be Marshall's first opponent at Moody Coliseum on the SMU campus in Dallas, Texas for round one of the C-USA Women's Tournament. Game one is on Thursday, March 2, expected to be played at 3:30 p.m. Central time and can be heard on the Marshall student radio station, WMUL 88.1 FM in Huntington and on the web at www.marshall.edu/wmul for all MU women'sgames. With a win, Marshall would meet Southern Miss for the third time this season on Friday, again expected to be at 3:30 p.m. CST. The semi-finals on Saturday will be broadcast on CSTV (channel 174 on Adelphia cable in Huntington) at 3:00 and 5:00 p.m., while the championship will be on Sunday, March 5, on ESPN2 (Adelphia channel 30) at 3:00 p.m.

Marshall dominated Southern Miss on Senior Day at the Henderson Center, where the Herd's five departing players - seniors Sikeetha Shepard-Hall, Reshundra Smiley and Mary Pat Statler, along with juniors who are graduating in May and will not return for a fifth year in Michelle Hagan and Crystal Champion - where all involved in the win, along with teammates Ishola, Bridget Chacon', Jill Justice, Kendra King, Kari James and Jill Justice, as the Herd held the Golden Eagles to just 25 percent shooting in the game and only 26 percent from behind the three-point line. The Herd shot 71 percent in the first half, making 15-of-21 shots, and 49 percent for the game along with a plus-14 rebounding edge, 45-31. USM shot 71 percent from behind the arc in the first meeting, a 67-63 game in Hattiesburg, Miss. where three Herd players fouled out and two had technical fouls called on them. In Sunday's game, Marshall went to the line 29 times, making 19 (66 percent) while Southern Miss hit 12-of-17, 71 percent.

Modupe Ishola recorded her 10th career double-double on Sunday in the Herd's win against Southern Miss. Ishola scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds (file photo).

Ishola ruled the paint in the second half, scoring 12 of her 19 points and grabbing eight of her 12 rebounds. For the game, the junior went 6-of-8 from the floor with two blocks (the 75th and 76th of her career, fourth all-time at MU) and had an assist. Ishola also hit 7-of-10 shots at the free-throw line, a point of pride for a player who entered 2005-06 as a 47 percent shooter at the stripe. Ishola has improved this season to a 65 percent shooter at the free-throw line.

The 71.4 team field goal percentage in the first half tied its season-best shooting clip in a half (also shot 71.4 percent in the second half at Wright State). The 15-of-21 mark in the first half allowed Marshall to enter halftime up 39-24, the most points in the first half this season for the Herd, topping the 35 points in the first half of the season opener against Tennessee State. Southern Miss' hit a game-opening three-pointer to give the Golden Eagles its only lead of the contest. Marshall quickly erased the deficit with a 10-0 run to lead 14-4 at the 11:13 mark of the first half. MU extended that to an 18-point lead at the 4:00 minute mark on a Chacon' three to lead 33-15, as USM had hit only 20 percent so far in the game, 6-of-30 from the floor and 2-of-10 from three.

"We played our best basketball of the season in the first half," Marshall coach Royce Chadwick said af the emotional Herd quick start following the Senior Day introductions. "We were very aggressive and shot the ball very well." Smiley was one of four Marshall players that was perfect from the field in the first half. She went 3-for-3 (1-for-1 from three) and had seven first-half points. Marshall (14-13, 9-7 C-USA) led by as many as 19 points early in the second half, although a field goal slump lasting over 10 minutes made for some anxious moments down the stretch. Ishola's follow of a missed shot at 13:22 was the last field goal MU would hit until the 2:43 mark, when another put-back by the Herd center fell, although the Herd hit 7-of-12 free-throw attempts during that stretch. Southern Miss - down 49-31 when the cold streak began - failed to capitalize, however, as the Eagles only cut the lead to 11 points at the 10:17 mark and were still down 11 when Ishola ended the slump just over seven minutes later.

Marshall sank only 29.2 percent of its shots in the second half for an overall clip of 48.9 percent, only the fifth time this season the Herd shot at least 48 percent and the first time since the win over UCF on January 20. USM's shotting was a season-worst 17-of-68, including a 1-for-15 effort from Ashley Boehnel of Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles turned 24 Marshall turnovers into 24 points, but MU out-scored USM 28-18 in the paint and off the bench by an overwhelming 31-to-4 margin. The 14-rebound edge also off-set the turnover margin being minus 11 (24-to-13) in Southern Miss' favor.

"Sunday games are very difficult games," Chadwick said. "When you have to travel like Southern Miss had to, it takes a lot out of you." Southern Miss had won at East Carolina on Friday, 71-56, to extend it's winning streak to three in a row and clinched the No. 4 seed in the C-USA tournament, getting a bye on Wednesday. Southern Miss (13-14, 10-6) received an outstanding effort from freshman Kendra Reed, who scored a game-high 26 points and pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds. She went 9-of-10 from the free-throw line and eight of her rebounds were on the offensive glass. She also shot 3-of-6 from three for a team that hit only 7-of-27 on the day. Amber Eugene, who was ejected from the team's earlier matchup in Hattiesburg, Miss., recorded a career-high seven steals while backcourt mate Kristin Chaney tied her career-high with six steals. The Golden Eagles posted a 15-2 advantage in steals.

MU's Shepard-Hall and Smiley, a pair of seniors, scored 12 points apiece on Senior Day. Fellow graduates Crystal Champion (seven), Michele Hagan (two) and Mary Pat Statler, who hit two big free-throws late in the contest, all got in the scoring column on their final game at the Henderson Center. Champion added eight rebounds, two assists and a steal and a block, one of five for the Herd. The Herd appeared to put the loss to Central Florida (UCF) behind them on Sunday. UCF returned to form at East Carolina, leading by five at the half before being blown out in the second half of a Pirate win, 65-44.

Other scores from Sunday included Tulsa extending its winning streak to two, having clinched the No. 1 seed on Friday, by beating UTEP 64-48. Tulsa is 13-3 in C-USA, 22-5 overall, while UTEP is 14-14, 6-10. Houston (11-16, 8-8) beat UAB (14-13, 7-9) 74-71; Rice (15-12, 11-5) is the No. 2 seed after knocking off Memphis (3-24, 1-15) by 72-56; and Tulane (14-11, 8-8) beat SMU (15-13, 10-6) in Moody Coliseum by the score of 71-58. The Herd will face a team in Memphis in Thursday's first round at the C-USA Championships they are 2-0 this season, with an average margin of victory of 16.5 points against the Tigers."We get to go into the tournament on a high note," Chadwick said. "We had to get a 'W' today to get our focus right going into the tournament." Marshall will travel to Dallas for the tournament on Wednesday.

Conference USA Women's Tournament, Moody Coliseum at SMU, Dallas, Texas, Live stats and live video streaming provided at www.conferenceusa.com

Thursday, March 2
East Carolina (#8 seed) vs. UAB (#9), 2:00 p.m.
Marshall (#5) vs. Memphis (#12), 4:30 p.m., WMUL 88.1 FM/www.marshall.edu/wmul
Houston (#7) vs. UTEP (#10), 7:00 p.m.
Tulane (#6) vs. UCF (#11), 9:30 p.m.
Friday, March 3
ECU-UAB winner vs. Tulsa (#1), 2:00 p.m.
Marshall-Memphis winner vs. Southern Miss (#4), 4:30 p.m.
Houston-UTEP winner vs. Rice (#2), 7:00 p.m.
Tulane-UCF winner vs. SMU (#3), 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 (Games on CSTV)
Semi-final number one, 4:00 p.m.
Semi-fianl number two, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 (Game on ESPN2)
Championship Game, 4:00 p.m.
All times Eastern

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