Junior forward Markel Humphrey returned from a three-game injury hiatus, and while he didn't immediately return to a pre-injury level of play Humphrey did open up the game for freshman forward Tirrell Baines. Both Humphrey and Baines scored 12 points each as Marshall (11-8, 3-3 C-USA) handed the Golden Hurricane (9-9, 1-5 C-USA) their third overtime loss this season, all in Conference USA play. Tyler Wilkerson poured in 16 inside despite the presence of sophomore shot blocker Jerome Jordan of Tulsa who averages nearly four blocks per game.
"They were physical down low," Humphrey said of his return against Tulsa. "I just had to get my second wind." Humphrey played 28 minutes in the game, and only seven minutes in the first half, despite coach Donnie Jones's plan to only have him play 15 minutes."Our goal was 15 minutes, but we played him 28," Jones said. "He'll be sore tomorrow."
Tyler Wilkerson scored 16 points against Tulsa, including these two over Sam Mitchell in the first half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall's Wilkerson shined against the Tulsa defense, scoring a game-high 16 points to lead all scorers. "We couldn't score any other way," said Jones, "so we kept giving it to him [Wilkerson]."
In the first half, Tulsa shot out to a six-point lead with 8:19 remaining. Baines and Wilkerson each scored three points to once again tie the game, yet Tulsa would take a 28-25 lead at the half. "There was no flow to the game," admitted Jones. "When you bring a guy like Markel back, some guys want to stand around and watch. I got on them pretty hard at halftime."
Mark Dorris applied defensive pressure to Tulsa's Brett McDade in the first half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The result was a Humphrey-Baines-Wilkerson "one-two-three" combination that wrestled the lead back for the Herd with 7:19 left in the game on Humphrey's jumper. Tulsa battled back in the final two minutes, however, and held MU without a field goal over the final 3:36 of regulation. Marshall's Mark Dorris hit two free throws to put the Herd up by four, 53-49, but Tulsa's Calvin Walls got a tip-in to edge Tulsa within two points and 1:33 remaining. After a seemingly endless back-and-forth between the two teams that resulted in no points being scored, Tulsa's Ben Uzoh tipped in a missed Calvin Walls shot with less than a second remaining to send the game to overtime.
"For the first time in our three overtime games, we came into it with energy," admitted Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik, the native of Wheeling, W.Va.. That energy quickly dissipated, though, the result of consecutive threes by Marshall's Matt Walls and Dorris, then a three the old-fashioned way by Baines to move the Herd up five with 2:23 left in overtime. When Humphrey added a jump shot with 1:29 remaining, Marshall's lead went to six at 64-58 and Wojcik decided to make Marshall win the game at the free throw line.
Markel Humphrey returned to action for Marshall, and scored 12 points, including these two over Tulsa's Sam Mitchell. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Marshall delivered on the line, hitting 8-of-11 in the final 1:11. Darryl Merthie's free throw with :22 left cemented the win for Marshall by a 72-65 margin. "You just have to tell yourself it's going to go in," said MU's Walls of the free throws, "and we did that tonight." The Herd hit five of its last six free throws.
Marshall shot 41.5 percent for the game, including 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from three, thanks for a 4-of-5 shooting in the overtime and 2-of-3 from three in the extra frame. Meanwhile, the Herd was hitting a solid 73.3 percent (22-of-30) from the free throw line. Tulsa shot just 40.0 percent (26-of-65), and only made 10-of-16 free throws (62.5 percent). The Golden Hurricane out-rebounded The Herd by a 44-31 margin, but Marshall won the turnover battle by committing just 11 to Tulsa's 18. Marshall's bench gave the Herd 34 points to win that category, and the Herd is now 10-1 when the bench out-scores the opponent.
"I really have a lot of respect for Tyler Wilkerson," summed up Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik. "He beat us inside." Tulsa saw its record fall to 0-3 in overtime games this year, including a three-overtime loss at UCF and a home OT loss to Tulane. Marshall improved to 3-0 in overtime games for 2007-08. That makes the first time Marshall basketball has done that since Rick Huckabay's 1987-88 squad won three OTs on the way to the Southern Conference regular season title and an appearance in the NIT, including overtime wins that season at Chattanooga and Appy State and a home win over VMI.
The last time the Herd had three overtime games at home was 1976-77 in Bob Daniels' final season, and that team was 2-1 in those OT games, including a win over Idaho State in the finals of the Marshall Memorial Invitational, a loss to Bowling Green and a win over Appalachian State a year before MU entered the SC. No Marshall squad has ever had four overtime games in a season.
Marshall now prepares for a roadtrip to play the UAB Blazers this Saturday at 8 p.m. The Herd beat UAB in Huntington on January 19, 62-57, without Humphrey in the lineup.