West Liberty provided a pressing defense in the first half that —combined with a somewhat flat start for Marshall— presented a challenge that Marshall coach Donnie Jones welcomed. "Nobody has pressed us yet," Jones said of West Liberty, "so that was a good test for us. I was really concerned about my team in the first half. West Liberty is well-coached."
And that defensive pressure led to 13 Marshall turnovers in the first half, which West Liberty converted into 10 points. Chris Banal's 12 points enabled West Liberty to tie the game 9 times in the half, yet their biggest lead would only be four points, at 27-23 with 8:21 left.
"We came out a little flat in the first half," admitted Marshall guard Mark Dorris, who scored a game-high 25 points. "They looked us in the eye and came right smack at us."
Mark Dorris put defensive pressure on West Liberty's Dan Binggeli on Tuesday night. Dorris scored a game-high 25 points in the 94-72 win. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Markel Humphrey's dunk coupled with a Adam Williams layup gave Marshall a 7-point halftime advantage, at 43-36. Marshall blocked blocked 8 West Liberty shots in the first half, with guards Dorris and Humphrey each getting two. "They were serving it like a volleyball," said Marshall forward Tirrell Baines of West Liberty's shot selections that led to the blocks. Baines had 11 points in the first half, en route to scoring 21 for the night.
In the second half, Marshall relied on its big men underneath to be the difference-makers, along with answering West Liberty's pressing defense with one of their own. Jean Francois Bro Grebe responded with a 10-point flurry in midway in the half, which shot The Herd out to a 19-point lead at 77-58. Marshall scored 12 points off West Liberty turnovers, effectively reversing the first half scenario.
"We had to tighten things up," added Baines.
Jean Francois Bro Grebe dunked two of his 12 points against West Liberty. Bro Grebe's 10-point second half enabled Marshall to pull away from West Liberty.. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"The big guys did a good job in the second half with the slip-screen," said Marshall guard Mark Dorris. "Our chemistry is getting better."
"We need to have an inside presence," added Marshall coach Donnie Jones. "We can't win just by shooting threes all year long."
West Liberty did get as close as 14 points late in the half, but Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes drained a three with 3:28 left that helped increase Marshall's lead back to 19 points, at 87-68. Tirrell Baines added a jumper with :56 left to seal the final score at 94-72.
"He's a young animal out there," said Marshall guard Mark Dorris of Tirrell Baines and his 21-point, 7-rebound performance.
Marshall shot 53.6% for the game (37-of-69), and also hit 71.4% of their free throws (15-of-21). West Liberty shot just 41.0% (25-of-61). Three West Liberty players scored in double figures, with both Chris Banal and Ben Howlett scoring 17, and Scott Mirich added10 points.
Mark Dorris led the Marshall scoring with 25 points, while freshman Baines continued to impress with a 21-point night. Jean Francois Bro Grebe and Markel Humphrey each scored 12 points. Dorris also grabbed 11 rebounds for the rare double-double by a guard.
Marshall now prepares for the regular-season opener against Pikeville College next Tuesday night at the Henderson Center, a 7pm tipoff.