Herd Falls At ETSU, 79-73

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Junior forward Kevin Tiggs scored 24 points to lead East Tennessee State to a 79-73 decision over the Marshall University men's basketball team on Tuesday at the Memorial Center. Marshall's leading scorer was freshman Matt Walls, who scored a career-best 21 points on 6-of-14 from three. The rest of the Herd, however, was just 3-of-18 from behind the arc at the "Mini-Dome."

Fellow Marshall true freshman Tirrell Baines posted 15 points to go with seven rebounds, five offensive. Junior Markel Humphrey scored 14 points, hitting 6-of-13 but 0-of-4 from three, and led the team with three assists while senior Mark Dorris scored 11 points and led the Herd with eight rebounds. Dorris and Humphrey have scored in double figures for 15 straight games, back to last season.

"They are typical freshmen, they come in and compete," said coach Donnie Jones of Marshall. "They may make mistakes of hustle and being competitive, and I can live with that. Walls played with great confidence. He's a winner that knows how to win, he knows what it takes. He plays all out until the horn sounds and that's part of what makes him special."

Matt Walls, in action earlier in the season against Pikeville, scored a career-best 21 points for the Herd against East Tennessee in a 79-73 loss on Tuesday in Johnson City, Tenn., in the "Mini-Dome." file photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

The game was tight, 49-47 at the 11:28 mark, until ETSU went on a back-breaking 11-0 run to pull away from the Herd and led 60-47 with about seven minutes left in the game. Marshall closed to within five points at 1:18 on Walls' final trey, but Darryl Merthie's three was off the mark. Dequan Twilley got the Bucs back up by nine by converting on back-to-back free throws. "We were trying to get the ball to Walls, but we told Darryl he could shoot if open," said Jones. "The problem was he wasn't open."

The Herd cut it to five with :10 seconds to play on a Dorris three, but Twill hit 2-of-4 from the line to put the win away for ETSU, the pre-season favorite to win the Atlantic Sun Conference. ETSU now leads the all-time series with the Herd, which began when both were in the Southern Conference, 24-21 and Marshall is 5-17 all-time in the Mini-Dome.

Tiggs went 9-for-17 from the floor and added six rebounds as the Buccaneers (4-3) avenged their overtime loss to the Thundering Herd (4-2) back on Nov. 20, 84-83 in overtime. This was the 15th consecutive out-of-conference win at the dome for the Bucs, back to 2004. Courtney Pigram, the A-Sun's pre-season Player of the Year, scored 14 points for the Bucs while Andrew Reed pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points and four blocked shots.

"When things get tight and we face adversity, we have to have guys step up and make plays. We're in game six now, it's time to step up and produce," said Jones. "We weren't able to score inside tonight, we have to be able to do that to be successful."

In the first half, Marshall committed 12 first-half turnovers to only four by the Buccaneers while ETSU shot 48.1 percent, but the Herd trailed by only four points at intermission, 35-31. The freshman duo of Baines and Walls netted nine first-half points apiece, with Baines scoring MU's first four points of the contest. Baines continued his strong play on the boards, pulling down five rebounds in the first half, three of which were offensive.

Jones' substitution of Taurean Marshall and Walls early in the first half paid immediate dividends, as the duo combined for 11 straight Herd points, including three straight three-pointers. Marshall scored a scoop lay-in while getting fouled and followed it up with a trey from the top of the key. Walls hit the first of back-to-back 3-pointers in a 31-second span to give the Herd a 17-14 edge at the 11:43 mark. ETSU and Marshall trades points, and Walls tied the game at 31-31 on a three-pointer from the corner with the shot clock expiring. Following Walls' 3-pointer, however, ETSU held Marshall scoreless for the half's final 2:16 and saw Tigg hit two free throws and Twill drain a 19-foot shot to give ETSU a 35-31 lead.

Point guard Pierre-Marie Altidor Cespedes, who had only played in the opener with Pikeville in which he sprained an ankle, returned to the lineup after missing four straight games. He played 16 minutes and dished out two assists. Marshall finished the game with 19 turnovers, most of the season, and only had one steal. The Herd took 17 more shots than East Tennessee, but made one less with MU 26-for-67 and ETSU 27-of-50. The Bucs dominated the paint, out-scoring the Herd 32-18 there.

Marshall will have nine days off for final exams before its next game, Dec. 14 at home versus Rio Grande University. The Herd's final non-conference road game is Dec. 18 at Louisville, and Marshall will finish out 2007 and welcome 2008 with four home games before jumping into Conference USA. The Herd will welcome Princeton (Dec. 22, 3 p.m.), Lipscomb (Dec. 29, 3 p.m.), San Diego (Dec. 31, a 2 p.m. New Year's Eve game) and Winthrop on January 5, 2008, at 2 p.m..

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