Herd Beats UAB, 53-52, To Open C-USA Tourney

MEMPHIS, TENN. - Marshall was the No. 8 seed, thanks to a tie-breaker, and led No. 9 UAB by 14 points at the half, but MU would just score 15 points in the second half. Despite the offense going cold, the Herd defense stayed hot against the Blazers as Marshall knocked off UAB 53-52 in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.

It is Marshall's first win in a post-season conference tourney since head coach Ron Jirsa's first MU team beat Eastern Michigan to open Mid-American Conference play in Huntington. It is the Herd's first on-site win in a conference tournament since the Herd beat Central Michigan in 2000 in Cleveland, Ohio, in the MAC quarterfinals. The Herd will move onto the quarterfinals of C-USA play for the first time, dropping a first-round game to Tulane in its initial trip to Memphis, and Memphis will be the opponent for the Herd on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The No. 5-ranked Tigers (AP/ESPN-USA Today) are the No. 1 seed in the C-USA tournament. "To make the NCAA Tournament, someone in this tournament has to beat Memphis," said associate head coach Bob MacKinnon in the post-game show on the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network. "Why not us, why not Marshall? We'll be here tomorrow night, with a big crowd and a nationally-ranked opponent. That's what players and coaches live for."

Marshall had to use all four centers in the game, as once again the Herd had lots of foul trouble at the post. Jesse Oglesby came in for 10 big minutes as the Herd sophomore scored a career-high four points and had a steal on defense to give the Herd a lift in the first half. "I've never been a big scorer," said Oglesby, a sophomore who had just his second-ever double-digit minutes game, "but I've always been a good defender. I was not afraid of Frank Holmes or Jeremy Mayfield, having played nine minutes against them at UAB."

"Jesse did a great job off the bench," said MacKinnon. "We have players like Jesse, Darryl Merthie, Taurean Marshall, they work hard every day in practice. They know the system and are ready to get in there and play. I know Jesse hasn't played as many minutes in his career as he would have liked, but he stepped up for us tonight."

Marshall led by 14 at the half, 38-24, but despite not scoring but two points the first four minutes of the half still led by four, thanks to a defensive effort that held UAB to just 37.5 percent shooting in the second half (12-of-32) and just 25 percent from three (2-of-8). The Herd led by six with 10:17 to play and still led by six with 3:15 to go. UAB would cut the lead to four on a Mike Davis, Jr. lay-up at the 2:39 mark. The Herd's Tyler Wilkerson (four rebounds, three points and two steals) had two turnovers in that minute, at the three minute mark and again at 1:58, but it would be 1:11 to play before Wen Mukubu would cut the lead to one at 51-50 with a three, after missing five shots in a row including a break-away reverse dunk attempt that head coach Mike Davis was visibly upset with. Chris Ross would miss a three with 33 seconds and Paul Delaney knocked the ball from Tre Whitted of Marshall and raced to the other end to give UAB its only lead of the second half, 52-51, with :28.8 to play. Markel Humphrey, however, broke loose on the inbound and slashed for a lay-up just :04.3 seconds later to give Marshall the lead back at 53-52 with 24.5 seconds to play. With about seven seconds left in the game, Davis, Jr. missed on a close shot and Mark Dorris grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Davis. Dorris missed the front end of the one-and-one and, after a timeout at :01.3 left to play, Delaney missed a final shot at or after the buzzer to give the Herd a win, thanks to great defense on the inbounds by Dorris.

Dorris led the Herd with 15 points in the win and had five rebounds, while Humphrey chipped in 12 points and led the Herd with eight rebounds. The Herd out-rebounded UAB by 33-30. Marshall also got nine points and six rebounds from senior Travis Aikens, while fellow seniors Whitted (six points) and Ross (two points, two steals, three rebounds and seven assists from the point) extended their Marshall careers at least one-more game.

Another key to the win was Marshall turning 13 Blazer turnovers into 14 points, while UAB could only muster six points on the 17 MU give-aways, 13 of them in the second half. Lawrence Kinnard scored 17 points for the Blazers while Delaney had 10 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals for UAB, who finish the year 15-16/7-10 in league games. Marshall improved to 13-18, 8-9 in C-USA, the most wins in a season for a Jirsa team at MU the last four years, and won its eighth conference game of the year, which also ties his first team at Marshall (8-10 in MAC play).

Airtime from the FedEx Forum is 6 p.m. Eastern time/5 p.m. in Memphis for the Herd-Tigers matchup, while tipoff is 7 p.m. Eastern. You can hear the game in Huntington on WRVC 930 AM and WDGG 93.7 FM, "The Dawg," the flagship stations of the Herd. The game will also be available on CSTV nationally, as will all the games in the quarterfinals and semi-finals of the Conference USA Tournament. The finals are set for Saturday at 11:30 a.m. (ET) and will be seen on CBS Television, locally on WOWK-TV 13 in the Huntington/Charleston area.

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