The Thundering Herd held on in the final moments after being up by as many as 21 points in the first half. Sophomore forward Markel Humphrey scored a layup to make the score 57-56 with 1:23 to go in regulation, and on Virginia Tech's next possession, senior forward Travis Aikens drew an offensive foul on Hokie center Coleman Collins to give the Herd another possession. Senior Tre Whitted was fouled, and he made both ends of a one-and-one to put Marshall up, 59-56, with 16 seconds to play.
Jean Francois Bro Grebe celebrated his win-sealing shot block of Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell as time expired in The Herd's 59-58 win over Tech on Saturday in Huntington. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"Those were probably the biggest free throws since the West Virginia game last year," said Whitted. "We shoot 200 free throws every day and that has helped a lot. I'm a senior leader, so I'm supposed to make shots like that."
Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell drove the lane after Whitted's free throws, and after his miss and a miss by VT's Markus Sailes, Coleman Collins came down with the rebound and the put back with five seconds remaining to make the score, 59-58.
Markel Humphrey hit this basket late in the game to keep Marshall ahead of Virginia Tech on Saturday in Huntington. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The Hokies immediately fouled Humphrey, who missed the front end of a one-and-one. Collins grabbed the rebound, and sent an outlet pass to Dowdell, who put up a 10-foot shot from the right elbow. However, Herd center Jean Francois Bro Grebe was waiting on the weak side and swatted away Dowdell's game-winning attempt to give the Herd the one-point victory.
Early on, Marshall propelled themselves to a big lead in the first half behind hot shooting and feisty defense. The Herd lead ballooned to 21 points, 38-17, at the 3:18 mark, and Marshall held a 17-point lead at the halftime break, 38-21. MU shot 43.8% from the floor and 46.2% from three in the opening stanza, while Virginia Tech could only muster 27.8% from the field and 0% (0-10) from beyond-the-arc. For the game, the Hokies could only make 1-of-14 from three-point land (7.1%).
The Hokies would not go away, and got right back in the game in the second half. In fact, Virginia Tech fought all the way back, taking their first lead of the game on two Jamon Gordon free throws to make the score 56-55 with 1:50 to go in the game.
"I'm happy for our team, players and coaches," said head coach Ron Jirsa. "It's only one win but it is an important win. Now we can look forward to the next game.
"Our fans were great tonight. It was good to see a good number of fans in force out there. It is important for us to play well when we have a lot of fans here.
"We worked very, very hard before the Bowling Green game. The effort at the start of this game was better, especially at the defensive end. We played Virginia Tech last year and we had a better feel for them. We wanted our players to have some positive reinforcement."
Virginia Tech's appearance marked the first time the Herd had squared off against an ACC team since December 17, 1997, when #23-ranked Wake Forest played in the Henderson Center. Marshall also won that game, 73-66, behind Travis Young's team-leading 17-point effort.
"We didn't do the things good teams need to do on the road," said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg. "In the first half our shot selection was suspect and our defense was unacceptable. We didn't guard the ball, we didn't get any stops and we didn't get any 50-50s. Obviously in the second half we did things better."
Jean Francois Bro Grebe blocked this final shot by Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell to seal Marshall's win over Tech on Saturday in Huntington. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Aikens was the only other double-digit scorer besides Dorris for the Thundering Herd. He added 11 points in the winning effort, and paced Marshall on the glass with nine rebounds.
Dowdell led Virginia Tech with 17 points. Jamon Gordon tallied 12 points, and A.D. Vasallo notched ten. Coleman Collins led all players in rebounding with 14.
Marshall returns to the Henderson Center hardwood Wednesday night to take on geographic rival Ohio. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.