The story of the game was a 17-3 UCF spurt at the end of the first half that continued into the second period. The run came with the score tied at 39 with 1:23 to go in the first half and lasted until the 15:55 mark in the second period. By the time it was through, the Golden Knights led 56-42, and never trailed the rest of the way. Before the run, the game had been a back and forth affair that had two ties and four lead changes.
The Herd tried to mount a comeback, but several threes and some convertible lay-ups that would have gotten Marshall closer late in regulation rimmed in and out. MU cut the UCF lead to six, 72-66, with 2:57 to play on a Tyler Wilkerson free throw, but it was as close as Marshall would get.
Mark Dorris drove the lane against UCF on Saturday night. Dorris scored 15 points in the loss. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
For the game, UCF, the conference's best shooting team, shot 51.9% from the floor and 46.7% from three, and also converted at the free throw line with an 83.3% shooting percentage. Meanwhile, MU shot 41.0% for the game, and only 27.3% from three. At the free throw line, Marshall made 15-of-25 at the charity stripe (60%). Marshall outrebounded the Golden Knights, 40-31, on the night.
"I think we saw a great game by Mike O'Donnell," said Marshall head coach Ron Jirsa. "We need everyone to play well. We had a tremendous game by Markel Humphrey. We showed again that we will fight back. We were able to make some tough shots and free throws, but it was a lot to make up.
"Tonight it was their (UCF's) shooting," continued Jirsa when asked about UCF's run. "They hit a tremendous percentage from three-point range. We can't turn the ball over. They were critical and led to fast breaks for UCF."
Darryl Merthie put in two of his 6 points against UCF in the second half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Besides Humphrey's career-best 25 points, junior guard Mark Dorris was the only other player in double figures at 15 points. Wilkerson led Marshall on the glass with nine rebounds.
"We've got to come out in the second half with the same intensity as we have at the beginning of the first half," said Humphrey. "Teams are going to make runs. That is part of basketball. We've got to maintain our composure and play our game."
Mike O'Donnell paced the UCF effort with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Dave Noel added 17 points, and Josh Peppers chipped in 16 points.
"It was a hard-fought game," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "I have to give Marshall a lot of credit. They find ways to keep fighting and scratching for everything. We made some shots in the second half and luckily were able to hold on. Marshall has an awful lot of heart and we were able to find ways to score. They played some good defense too and it was tough for us to score the last six or seven minutes of the game."
The Herd returns to action Wednesday night at home against C-USA opponent Tulsa. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.