Marshall, just 11-11 all-time in games played at Morehead State, won for the first time in Johnson Arena since 1995 and took home the Ellis Johnson Trophy, named for the coach of the Eagles in the 1930s and 1940s and the Herd in the 1960s. Marshall went to the NIT in back-to-back years under Johnson in 1967 and 1968. MU was led in the game by Travis Aikens, who shot 8-for-10 and scored 21 points. Markel Humphrey hit for 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting on the night. Tre Whitted added 10 points off the bench, while freshman Tyler Wilkerson had two points, three rebounds and two blocks in 11 minutes of action.
The most important points of the night were the two scored by point guard Chris Ross, who had nine points, and Darryl Merthie, who scored his only two with 24 seconds left in the contest. The Herd took the lead late in the first half and stretched it out to 18 points midway through the second half. Back came the Eagles behind Maze Stallworth, who hit 5-of-8 three-pointers and scored 21 points. Morehead cut the lead to one point with 2:25 to play, 75-74, when Ross drove for a layup to send the Herd back up three with two minutes left.
Jean Francois Bro Grebe, who officially blocked three shots but unofficially had seven and nearly as many shots altered, forced MSU center Shaun Williams away from the basket on what looked an easy Morehead layup and the ball was rebounded by Merthie. After the teams traded missed shots, Merthie went to the line and drilled his first two collegiate free throws to give MU a 79-74 lead. Aikens hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds, giving the Herd a six point lead at 80-74, but Morehead made it close with a three from Quentin Pryor with three seconds to cut the lead the three. Aiken went one of two at the line again for a 81-77 lead and a half-court three by Brandon Callahan of Morehead set the final score at 81-80.
Bro Grebe, who had nine rebounds, four points and two assists to go with his shot-blocking, and the Herd defense held Williams to a 1-for-11 night of shooting. The Morehead center, who averages 17 points and seven rebounds per game, was held to two points and just three rebounds. Marshall also played good on the offensive end, with the best shooting night from the field (27-of-46, 59 percent) and from three (8-for-14, 57 percent) in the win. Morehead State also shot well, hitting 48 percent from the floor (32-of-67) and 52 percent from three (11-of-21). Marshall continued the good free throw shooting that started in the 49th state last week by nailing 19-of-28 at the stripe, 68 percent, while MSU only got to the line nine times, hitting five.
Marshall now leads the all-time series with the Eagles 48-43. Marshall will now face another long-time rival on Saturday when the Herd makes the trip to Athens, Ohio to face the Ohio University Bobcats in the 92nd meeting all-time. OU leads the all-time series 48-43 with the Herd. Tipoff is at 2:00 p.m. at the Convocation Center on the Ohio U. campus and the game will be televised on the Ohio Sports Network (locally on WSAZ TV-3) and heard on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network (locally on WRVC 930 AM and WDGG, 93.7 FM, The Dawg).