"We played a team with more athletes than us," said Jones. "We were forced to play a half-court defense tonight, for the first time."
The need for the half-court defense came as a result of a sloppy first half for both teams. One of those games, where few points are scored and neither team could manage a comfortable lead. The lead changed hands six times in that first half, yet Marshall was only able to ease out to a 27-16 lead at the break.
Matt Walls put up two of his seven points against Pikeville Tuesday night at the Henderson Center. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"They were free and loose," said Jones of Pikeville College in the first half. That looseness was typified by forward Jeff Ferguson, who scored nine points early on for the Bears. On the other end of the floor, Marshall was led by Markel Humphrey's 13 points in the first half, most of them coming on easy dunks underneath the ever-changing Pikeville defensive schemes (zone, man-to-man, 2-3 zone). You name it, they played it.
"I've never had that many dunks,"Humphrey said.
Markel Humphrey led all scorers with 21 points, most of them coming via dunks like this one in the second half against Pikeville College. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
In the second half, Marshall turned the tables on Pikeville and used defense to stave off the Bears one final time. After shooting out to a (for once) comfortable 12 point lead at 40-28 with 11:54 remaining, Marshall spent the next four minutes trying to keep Pikeville at bay. A string of three consecutive three point shots (one each by Pikeville's William Harris, Anthony Ighodaro, and Justin Hicks) put the Bears right back into the game, down only by two points at 44-42.
"We were worried the momentum would shift when they hit three threes in a row," admitted Jones. "We had to step it up a notch," added Humphrey.
After missing many free throws early in the game, Marshall went on a tear the final five minutes, hitting 8-of-10. Mark Dorris's steal kept the momentum going Marshall's way with 5:08 left, and Humphrey sank two free throws with 3:35 left that pushed The Herd back out to a 8 point lead, 51-43.
Mark Dorris made this steal from Pikeville College's William Harris in the first half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
PIkeville would never close the gap, and Tirrel Baines' layup iced the final margin of eleven points, 60-49.
"We had a chance to win this game," said Pikeville coach Kelly Wells, "but let a couple opportunities slip away."
Humphrey (21), Dorris (10) and Tirrell Baines (10) each scored in double figures for Marshall. Rebounding was even at 30 apiece for both teams, while Marshall forced 23 turnovers by Pikeville (while only committing 17 of their own).
Free throws reared their ugly head again for Marshall, with a 50% performance (15-of-30) appearing as the difference between a 20-plus point win and the reality of an 11 point one.
Still, Jones was just happy to get official win number one under his belt.
"I wasn't concerned with how pretty it was, just get the W," Jones summed up.
Next up for The Herd is a home game against East Tennessee State next Tuesday night at 7pm in the Henderson Center.