"I thought we had some opportunities to establish ourselves early in the game, said head coach Royce Chadwick of Marshall. "We got some shots, got some offensive rebounds, really played as hard as we can play but in the first five minutes of the game nothing went down." In fact, the Herd opened the game 2-for-15 over the first ten minutes. The score was just 5-2 SMU a little over five minutes into the game as SMU went 1-for-6 to start in the first seven minutes with four turnovers. "We couldn't buy a basket, we couldn't get a put-back, we couldn't hit from the free throw line and and I thought that we did not play well then for the next ten minutes thinking, 'Oh, it's just not our night." Both teams were as cold as the Cam Henderson Center in the early going.
The game was SMU 14-12 with eight minutes left, but the Mustangs (14-4, 4-1 in Conference USA) began to find the mark. They out-scored Marshall (11-7, 3-2 in C-USA) 16-to-7 down the stretch and wen to the locker room with a 30-19 advantage. MU shot just 26.9 percent, 7-of-26, in the first half including just 1-for-5 from three. SMU hit 10-of-22, 45.5 percent, and made 3-of-7 from three (42.9 percent) in the first half. The Herd would try to set the tone with the first four points of the second half, but SMU was giving a lift by Jillian Samuels who scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half including hitting 3-of-4 from three. The Mustang's center, Janielle Dodds, an All-American candidate and Pre-Season C-USA selection, scored 11 of her 17 points in the second half and also grabbed four of her five rebounds.
"SMU is a veteran team," said Chadwick. "Dodd is a very good player. She had her normal night. We talked about what we had to do to stop her, but they did a good job of isolating her and we were late on defense." SMU started three seniors against the Herd, who has only first-year senior Kizzy Hart in the starting line-up. "They kept plugging away and kept playing and playing. They built a little bit of a lead and made things happen, while we didn't execute on offense like I hoped we would. We didn't execute on defense or rebounding or taking the scouting report out to the floor. They did a great job."
Marshall only had four players score in the first half, with freshman forward Tynikki Crook leading the team with nine of 19 points and six of 19 rebounds. Meagan Samis came off the bench and tried to get the Herd back in the game in the second half. Samis, the senior transfer from UNC Wilmington, hit for 5-of-9 in the second half, and was 4-of-4 from three. She led the Herd with 16 points, all in the second half. Crook ended with a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, but hit only 4-of-12 from the floor and 4-for-10 at the free throw line. Marshall shot just 52 percent from the line, 13-of-25, the second-worst day at the free throw line of the season (46 percent in win versus Navy).
Besides Dodds and Samuels, Sharee Shepherd also had 15 points for SMU. The Mustangs shot 45.5 percent (25-of-55), 50 percent from three on 7-of-14 and hit 15-of-23 at the line (65.2 percent. Marshall shot a season low-tying 28.6 percent for the second game in the last three, matching the shooting percentage in the overtime loss at UAB. MU hit just 5-for-20 from three, with Hart going just 1-for-7 and scoring just nine points. This was the first game since Nov. 30 that Hart was not in double-figures. Casey Baker hit 3-of-8 and scored seven points, but also committed six turnovers while Hart had four. "We are a guard-oriented team," said Chadwick, who was denied his 100th win at MU and 500th career win. "When they don't play well, we don't play well." Forwards Chantelle Handy and Alyssa Hammond, who was injured and left the game in the second half, did not score in the game while Meg Withrow scored only three and missed both three-point tries after shooting 64 percent from behind the arc in the first four C-USA games.
Marshall doesn't have long to dwell on this loss, as Wednesday the annual meeting with West Virginia at the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic at the Charleston (W.Va.) Civic Center is up next. The game with the No. 14 Mountaineers, 14-3 after knocking off St. John's 68-44 on Saturday in New York City, will be the first of four games away from home for the women's team at Marshall. Next Sunday, Marshall will travel to East Carolina (7-11, 1-4 C-USA) who picked up its first C-USA win of the year Sunday with a 62-52 upset of Tulsa (7-11, 3-2). MU beat ECU 81-55 back to Jan. 5 to open C-USA play at home with a win.
Then, Marshall is at Central Florida (8-10, 1-4) on Jan. 31. UCF won its first C-USA game of the year also Sunday with a 68-49 win at Rice. Feb. 2, Marshall travels to Southern Miss (10-8, 1-4) who lost to Houston Sunday 71-61. Then, the Herd will play five of the next six at home in February, staring with league-leading UTEP (14-2, 5-0) who beat Memphis 75-62 on Sunday to continue as the league's only undefeated team. MU's game with WVU starts Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the sold-out Civic Center, and the game can be heard on WRVC 930 AM, ESPN for the Tri-State, as well as seen nationally on CSTV.