Fifth Third MU Classic Features Marshall-Pitt

Marshall has never lost a game in the six years of the Fifth Third MU Classic, now 11-0 after knocking off Jackson State, 87-61, on Friday. The Herd may face its toughest test, however, Saturday at 1 p.m. when the opponent in the championship game will be Pre-season Top 25 Pittsburgh of the Big East. The Panthers improved to 3-2 with a 70-54 win over Harvard in Friday's second game of the tourney.

In the early game, Marshall used double-figure scoring by four players and great defense to drop Jackson State, the defending Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season champion, to 2-4 on the year. Marshall turned 21 Jax State turnovers into 20 points, while the Tigers could only score eight off 17 turnovers by the Herd.

Marshall (3-3) was led by Alyssa Hammond and Alix Barnette with 14 points each, and Hammond led the Herd with nine rebounds. Also in double-digit scoring was Meagan Samis with 12 points and Meg Withrow with 10 points. Withrow was almost perfect off the bench, hitting 4-of-5 shots, 2-of-3 from three and dishing three assists against just one turnover. Marshall shot 48 percent from the floor, 29-of-60, and shot 38 percent from three (6-of-16). Marshall out-rebounded the Tigers 44-to-33, getting five from Samis and four each from Barnette, Chantelle Handy, Casey Baker and Tynikki Crook. Crook, the 6-foot-1 freshman from Detroit, scored all nine of her points in the second half, knocking down 3-of-3 shots and 3-of-6 at the free throw line. The Herd's defense also limited Jackson State's leading scorer, LaSharee Christian (a two-time All-SWAC selection) to just three points against her 16.4 points per game average. Christian hit just 1-for-8 from the floor and 0-of-3 from three.

"I though our second half was much better than our first," said head coach Royce Chadwick after the game. "I thought we settled in and we got a couple of things established. We got a low post presence established (with Crook) which we didn't in the first half. We played a lot of people and I thought our depth was important in the second half." Also playing well in the low post was walk-on junior center Kari James, who scored a career-high six points late in the contest. "From where we started this season, we've come a long way as a team. We weren't getting the ball down on the post. We are getting more comfortable with our roles," said Chadwick. The Herd has won three straight games since starting 0-3 in the Pre-season WNIT.

Pitt, who got 41 votes in the Associated Press poll this week following a 13-point loss to No. 3 Maryland, held Harvard to 19 percent shooting in the first half and coasted to a 70-54 win. The final margin would have even been larger had the Panthers hit its free throws, making only 47 percent on 14-of-30 shooting. For the season, Pittsburgh is shooting 78 percent at the line.

Pitt (3-2) was led by two players who posted double-doubles in the game. 6-foot-3 senior center Marcedes Walker scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, five of which were on the offensive glass. Also with a double-double was 6-foot-3 freshman forward Chelsea Cole with 12 points and 11 rebounds, six on the offensive end. Also in double-digit scoring was junior Shavonte Zellous, who came off the bench to score 14 points. Zellous played high school basketball at Jones High School in Orlando, Florida, where Marshall quarterback Bernard Morris was on the boy's basketball team with departed MU senior forward Travis Aikens.

Marshall and Pitt, who played in the NCAA Tournament last season, will play about 30 minutes after the end of the 11 a.m. consolation game between Harvard (3-2) and Jackson State. The Crimson had two players in double figures, with center Katie Rollins scoring 12 points and guard Lindsay Hallion scoring 10, while Jackson States leading scorer was DeQuisha Davis and Lashonda Gains, each with 12 points, while Carena Easley added 11 points.

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