It was a game that was tied at the half at 38-38, after Marshall (13-10, 5-5 in Conference USA) trailed by as much as ten in the first half. Midway through the second half, SMU (8-14, 2-7 in C-USA) was up by seven and still led by six with four minutes left. Darryl Merthie, hobbled a bit by a swollen ankle and limited to 15 minutes playing time, cut the lead to three with his third three of the game at the 3:50 mark. Markel Humphrey then hit two free throws to cut the lead to one, at 68-67 Mustangs.
SMU 7-foot-1 center Bomba Fall, who scored nine of his 16 points in the second half, hit a hook shot to move the Ponies up by three. Merthie missed on the next trip but Humphrey grabbed the rebound and fed Mark Dorris, who hit a three to tie the game with 2:31 to go at 70-70. After a Derrick Roberts lay-up, Dorris came up with a steal and a lay-up to tie the game again at 72-72 with a minute to play.
With 13.7 seconds to go, Roberts slipped by Dorris (who slipped on the court) and made a lay-up despite Tirrell Baines trying to draw his third charge call of the game, and SMU led 74-72. A timeout by the Herd after Merthie got the inbounds pass over mid-court set up the Herd's senior guard with a shot at the game winner. "I wanted to get to half-court, to give us a chance," said Jones. "The play was set to get Darryl off a double (screen) to get open, or with Mark coming off and getting open. Darryl wasn't, but Mark was open and he was to let it fly. He took a little deeper three than I wanted, but he hit it." Dorris, who hit a three from about 25-feet deep, scored all nine points Marshall would score in the final three minutes to get the win and finished with a 7-of-14 night, including 2-of-5 from three, and both of those in the final minutes.
Mark Dorris, shown during the WVU game, had all nine of the final points scored by the Herd, including a three for the 75-74 win with 0:00.7 on the clock against SMU Wednesday. This is the third win for Marshall over the Mustangs, two coming in Dallas and all on or around Valentine's Day. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Baines had one of his best games since Marshall began conference play. The true freshman had seen his average drop to just above ten points per game with only two double-digit games since he began playing in C-USA. Tonight, however - and with Tyler Wilkerson saddled with four fouls and limited to ten minutes, Baines recorded his third double-double with a career-best 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Herd had a double-digit rebounding edge, 31-to-17, for the second consecutive game. "How about tonight, Tirrell steps up when Tyler could not get into the flow," said Jones. "Here he is going against two very big guys but played smart with his game for 24 points. Rebounding has been key. It goes back to what I tell them, rebound, get the ball inside. It's a new season, and since we began that new season, we are 2-and-0.
SMU was led by Roberts with 18 points, hitting 8-of-9 shots and 2-for-2 from three. Fall (5-of-8) and John Killen (6-for-12, 3-of-8 from three) each had 16 points. "That's a very good basketball team. A lot of people are looking at their record being 8-14, but that's one of the best 8-14 teams in the country. They have good size, good athleticism." No Marshall coach could remember winning a game against a team that shot 53 percent from the field (25-of-47), 59 percent from three (10-for-17) and 82 percent from the line, hitting 14-of-17.
But the Herd actually got to the line more on the road in a tightly-called game with a number of moments where the referees had to talk or look (or not look) at the replay to figure things out. "Our kids have overcome a lot and just hung in there and kept battling and battling. We just hoped to get a final shot, and we hit it," said Jones. Marshall did not have Jean Francois Bro Grebe for the second game in a row, and freshman guard Matt Walls is out three-to-four weeks with a broken shooting hand. Freshman forward Bruce Senior stayed behind in the hotel after becoming ill with the virus that has dogged the Herd's heels.
Marshall shot very well tonight, hitting a season-best 54.3 percent from the field on 25-of-46. The Herd shot 43.8 percent from three (7-of-16) and 78.3 percent from the free throw line (18-of-23). Merthie hit 3-of-6, including 3-of-5 from three. Baines was 9-for-13 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the line, while Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes was 2-of-3 for five points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal in 36 minutes played. Humphrey was 3-of-6, 1-of-2 from three and 5-of-7 at the line and has five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Robbie Jackson was 4-of-4 for four points and had four rebounds and a steal. Dorris also had four rebounds and five assists with his 7-for-14 shooting night and game winner.
Marshall's Tirrell Baines, dunking last Saturday against East Carolina, had his third double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds in the win at SMU. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
It was Marshall's second win on the road in league play, and now the Herd will return home for three consecutive games. Saturday, the Tulane Green Wave comes to town after having an off night on Wednesday. That game is at 7 p.m. and will feature the introductions of the 2008 Class of the Sports Medicine Hall of Fame. Marshall will host UTEP next Wednesday at 7 p.m., then host Central Florida on Saturday, Feb. 23, as part of a double-header with the women's team who will play at 5 p.m. that day against UAB.
The women are home Feb. 15 for UCF on Friday at 7 p.m., then play Southern Miss on Sunday at 2 p.m. in a CSTV game. Both of these women's games can be heard on ESPN 930 AM in Huntington, along with the UAB game next weekend.