"This is a great win for our program, especially considering the fact that we didn't play particularly well in the first half," admitted Tulane coach Dave Dickerson. "We made some adjustments at halftime."
It all started out so well. Marshall's first basket of the game was a Markel Humphrey three, and another by Joe Miles with 10:42 remaining gave The Herd a five-point cushion at 18-13. Miles hit 3-of-5 from three in the first half. Tre Whitted scored yet another MU three with 1:02 left that gave Marshall another five-point lead, 37-32, which they would hold through halftime.
Mark Dorris battled Tulane's Donnie Stith for a loose ball in the first half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"We made some uncharacteristic mistakes," Tulane's Dickerson said of the first half Marshall lead. "We just didn't play with the energy it takes to win games in March."
However, Tulane had an answer on the inside in Quincy Davis. The Green Wave center shot 6-of-9 –most from short range– en route to a 13-point half. That would be an indicator of things to come in the second half.
"He's a physical presence on the inside and he posted us early in the game," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa of Davis.
Markel Humphrey made this steal from Tulane's Ryan Williams early in the game.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
After shooting a solid 48% in the first half (13-of-27, including 7-of-15 from three), Marshall went just 6-of-29 in the second half with only one three. With Tulane outrebounding Marshall steadily, center Mark Patton drained a three with just 2:29 remaining to tie the game one last time at 56-56.
"We wanted to get the ball up the floor and get it inside," said Marshall coach Ron Jirsa, "and I thought we did that for the most part."
Tulane didn't exactly have a cake-walk of it in the second half, however. After scoring 13 in the first half, Quincy Davis only played 8 minutes in the second half. David Gomez stepped up to the plate in Davis's absence with a 13-point second half.
Mark Patton fought Tulane's Andrew Garcia for a rebound in the second half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"For a little while, my shots weren't going down, but my teammates stuck with me and kept passing me the ball," said Gomez.
Tulane's Donnie Smith answered Patton with a three of his own to give Tulane the lead for good with 1:00 left, 59-56. Tulane's Gomez, Andrew Garcia, and Chris Moore hit the final five free throws combined as Marshall failed to connect on five baskets (two of them threes) in the final seconds.
"They were just a really scrappy team," said Marshall's Markel Humphrey.
"When we got back into the game, we had a chance to go ahead, but it didn't happen," summed up MU's Jirsa.
And when the dust had settled, Tulane had become the first higher seed (lower numbered) to win in the first round of the Conference USA tournament in Memphis, 64-58. The first two games saw upsets by both SMU (of Rice) and Southern Miss. (of Tulsa).
"Both teams were battling all night," said Marshall's Mark Patton. "They just got their rebounds at the end of the game."
Tulane's Ryan Williams was tied up by Mark Patton in the second half, leading to a held ball.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Tulane outrebounded Marshall by a 41-37 margin, with both teams grabbing 19 offensive rebounds each. Marshall committed 20 turnovers, compared to Tulane's 18. Mark Patton ended his MU career by leading the Marshall scoring with 15 points (on 5-of-16 shooting), and was joined by Joe Miles (11 points) and Markel Humphrey (10 points, 9 rebounds) in double figures.
Tulane's David Gomez scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the double-double. Quincy Davis finished with 17 points (scoring four in the second half after the 13-point first half), and Donnie Stith added 13 for the Green Wave.
Marshall finished the season at 12-16 overall, as did Tulane. The Green Wave advances on to play the #1-seeded Memphis Tigers on Thursday evening.