Marshall Women Falls In WNIT Opener, 89-77

Marshall University opened the 2007-08 season in the Women's National Invitational Tournament and the first half looked like the Herd might head to East Lansing to meet Michigan State in the second round, leading 51-39. But the second half was all Purple Aces of Evansville, as a combination of 14 personal fouls on MU and a plethora of three-point plays led EU to a 89-77 win at Roberts Stadium.

Marshall led 62-46 with just over 16 minutes left before the run by the Purple Aces (1-0). Back came Evansville, down 70-57 with just over ten minutes left, Evansville made a furious charge, going on a 26-0 run. Shooting 63 percent in the second half, the Purple Aces were led by Rebekah Parker with 22 points. In fact, all five starters for the Aces were in double figures. Marshall was led in the contest by sophomore Alix Barnett with 15 points, while junior guard Meg Withrow had 12 points, six assists and five steals.

Casey Baker, the junior college transfer from Lincoln Trail Community College in Illinois, had 11 points and four steals in her first game for the Herd, but fouled out of the game with about four minutes to play. 16 personal fouls were called on the Thundering Herd in the second half, as two other players had four fouls and two more played with three in the second half. The fouls led to three consecutive three-point plays for the Aces between the 3:40 mark and 2:30 to go as Evansville pushed to lead out to double figures at 80-70 and held on for the win.

Evansville cut the lead in half beginning after the first media time out, then cut it to five points with eight minutes to play. With 5:41 left in the game, Coach Royce Chadwick took his final time out after Baker was called for a charge, then Ashley Austin drew the tenth team foul on the Herd and hit one-of-two to tie the game at 70-70. In the huddle, as heard on WMUL 88.1 FM, Chadwick told his team to be careful. "Attack from the elbow. They are calling everything. Don't look at the refs. Don't bail them out. We've got to overcome this." At that point, the Aces had out-scored MU 33-19.

Evansville took the first lead of the night on a stick-back with 4:33 to play at 72-70 and scored the next 13 points untill Kizzy Hart made one-of-three at the line to cut the score to 83-71. That foul, with 2:04 to play, marked the first time in the second half that the Herd was eligible for the bonus. Evansville had 16 offensive rebounds in the second half and scored 14 second chance points, shooting 50 percent for the contest. The Herd shot 47 percent on the night, and also in double figures for Marshall was Alyssa Hammond with 10 points and five rebounds.

Marshall was lights out in the first half, shooting 60 percent (21-35) from the field, including 62.5 percent (5-8) from three-point range. With 51 points scored in the half, it marked the first time MU had accomplished that feat since scoring 54 in the second half against UAB in the 2005-06 season. Evansville's defense had a strong second half, holding Marshall to 31 percent shooting and 26 points. They also held the Herd without a point for an eight minute stretch. Shannon Novosel also had a stellar game, tallying 20 points to go along with 12 boards.

It was Marshall first trip to the pre-season WNIT, but not its first trip to the Women's National Invitational Tournament. Following the 1970-71 season for Marshall women's basketball, only the second season ever for the "Green Gals" as Marshall's women were known until the early 1980s, MU was invited to the third WNIT. That tournament was held at Western Carolina University, in rather remote Cullowhee, N.C., and Marshall fell to East Stroudsburg (66-43) and to California State (70-48). Marshall's last trip to the WNIT, pre-or post-season, or NCAA Tournament, was a decade ago when Sarah Evans-Moore led Marshall to its only Southern Conference Tournament Title and the program's first NCAA trip, a 69-49 loss at Colorado.

Marshall will get two more games in the WNIT, but will not find out until Saturday who they will play and where for games on November 16-17, although it will likely involve IUPUI, who lost to Michigan State.

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