Sophomore Darryl Merthie led the charge for the Herd, scoring a career high 16 points, with 14 of those in the second half and overtime, as the Herd rallied from being down nine at the half and down 16 points with 3:55 left in the first half. Ohio pushed the lead back out to 13 with 12:35 to play in the game, but the Herd turned up the defensive pressure now down 51-38. "We didn't press them as much in the first half, but we had some success with it in the second half," said MU head coach Ron Jirsa.
Travis Aikens, who led MU with six rebounds and 19 points, hit one of his three three-pointers with 12:00 to play and Marshall was off on a 14-0 run. Over the next three-plus minutes, MU forced OU into six turnovers and turned the game around at 52-51. Merthie his for seven of his 16 points during that run, while Aikens had five and a steal. "We wasted some good efforts by a number of players," said Jirsa. "Darryl, Travis, Tyler Wilkerson and Taurean Marshall got us back into the game."
Wilkerson, playing for Jean Francois Bro Grebe, who was in foul trouble from the start, played 18 minutes and recorded two blocks and one rebound. The other freshman big man for the Herd, Robbie Jackson, had six points, four rebounds and a steal, hitting 2-of-2 shots and 2-for-3 at the free throw line. Merthie, in his first season with the Herd, shot 5-of-8 from the field, 2-for-4 from three, 4-for-4 at the line and added four assists and two rebounds for his best game in a Marshall uniform.
Ohio shot 42 free throws to just 15 by the Herd, reminding many courtside of a similar difference in trips to the stripe in Marshall's last visit to the Convo for a six-point loss in a MAC tournament game in 2004. OU was 37-for-42, 88 percent, while the Herd shot 80 percent on 12-of-15. "They made their free throws late, and that was big," said Jirsa. Ohio was 13-for-13 at the stripe in the first half, and shot 13-for-13 at the line in overtime. The Bobcats were led by center Leon Williams, who had 18 points and seven rebounds. Ohio had five players in double figures, including Jerome Tillman (17 points on 5-of-6 shooting), Whitney Davis (16), Sonny Troutman (15, 11-for-12 from the line) and Bubba Walther (14). OU was just one-for-nine from behind the arc, but Walther's three gave them a six-point lead with just 1:40 to play in OT.
Marshall and Ohio will meet for a second time on Jan. 3, 2007, in the Cam Henderson Center. The Herd has little time to dwell on the loss, now 43-49 all-time against Ohio and 5-16 all-time in the Convo (since 1968) as they will fly Sunday out of Charleston, W.Va. for Memphis and the No. 17 Tigers to open Conference USA play on Monday. The game tips at 8:00 p.m. (EST) and can be heard on WRVC 930 AM, WDGG 93.7 FM, The Dawg, and the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network.