Marshall seniors Kizzy Hart, Melody Hudson and Meagan Samis were introduced with their parents before the game and honored with framed pictures to remember their contributions to the Marshall program. All three started for Head Coach Royce Chadwick, but it was really UAB who was celebrating from start to finish. The Herd started down 5-0, saw the lead stretch to 14-2 for the Blazers and things just continued to go wrong from there. The Herd made only 6-of-23 shots in the first half, 1-of-6 from three, and were down 34-20 at the end of the first half.
Tynikki Crook shot over UAB's Amanda Scott in the first half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"Nobody had a hot hand," said MU assistant coach John Sutherland, appearing on ESPN 930-AM after the game. "Nobody hit back to back shots in the game, except maybe Alix (Barnett). When Casey Baker is 1-of-8, and Kizzy Hart was 3-of-15...those are our scorers, and they were a combined 4-for-23." Alyssa Hammond led the Herd with just 12 points, but even that was not done in the usual manner. "The 10-of-12 at the free throw line is good for Hammond, but she was 1-of-7 shooting. No one could make baskets." Hudson was the best player for the Herd on this day, making 3-of-5 shots and scoring six points with three rebounds, an assist and a team-high four steals, tying Baker.
UAB improved to 13-14, and is now in fourth place with a 9-5 record in Conference USA. The Blazers played the game without its leading scorer, Diamond Rogers, but did not seem to miss her 18 points and nine rebounds per game. The Blazers stormed out to the lead by hitting 48.1 percent of its shots in the first half (13-of-27), and were led by junior guard Britney Jones who hit 4-of-5 from three for 12 points. She finished with 19 points. Crystal McFadden scored 14 points and has six assists for UAB, while 6-foot-4 Christon Ingram had six points and nine rebounds. The Blazers dominated nearly every category, starting with a 42-35 edge on the glass and 16 were offensive rebounds.
"I think they had like 17 points off our turnovers in the first half," said Royce Chadwick, and the Blazers would end the game with 23 points off 19 MU turnovers. "I think we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores who come out and think it was their nights. Then they missed one or two shots and become different players, trying to get assists to teammates and not taking shots." Chadwick also thought his team did not handle the physical nature of the game, and there were only 28 fouls called in the game, and neither did Hammond. "We should have known it was coming, it's February," said Hammond of the tone of the game. "It was alot like practice, where we never call fouls."
Kizzy Hart drove past UAB's Brianna Berry on Saturday evening. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
After being down by as much as 21 in the second half a number of times, the Herd made one final push beginning with Hammond hitting two free throws at the 7:51 mark to cut the lead to 51-32. Baker hit two more, then Hammond had two more at the line to make the score 53-36. Two free throws by Samis, followed by a Hart three (her only trey on six attempts) and Marshall was down 12, 53-41. Hudson hit a lay-up after a steal and the crowd of 974 were on its feet as the Herd was down 10 with 3:44 to go in the contest.
But UAB answered the run with another three by Jones, a jumper by Erica Simpson and just like that, Marshall was down 15 again at 58-43 and there was just 2:52 to go. Simpson added a jumper, then the final score was set by three Hammond free throws and a Samis lay-up to make it 60-48. That is the lowest amount of points in a game this year for the Herd, having lost 60-49 to IUPUI in game two back on Nov. 16. That was the least points in a home loss for the Herd since 2002 when the Herd scored only 44 in a loss to Eastern Michigan. The lone positive in the loss for the Herd was a 18-of-23 shooting night from the free throw line, but that hardly offset the poor shooting from the field.
The Herd shot just 14.3 percent from three, hitting 2-of-14, and that tied for the second worst shooting night behind the arc. It was only the second time the Herd was below at least 21 percent from three since mid-December. Marshall shot just 1-for-10 from three at Ohio back on Dec. 14, shot 14.3 percent versus Navy on Dec. 16 and shot 18.8 percent from behind the arc at East Carolina in a two-point loss on Jan. 27.
Except for the top three teams and possibly the bottom three teams in C-USA, there is still plenty of time to improve the seed for MU in the tournament. There are no less than six teams within two wins of each other, pending Sunday's games. "Everybody has to win games right now," said Chadwick. "We came out of that Memphis game, you would have thought we had won 37 games in a row. Coming into to tonight's game, we were energetic, like we hadn't lost a game all year long."
"We don't have the understanding of when it goes bad, you've got to fight through that. We are so easy to sway to the positive side, and we are so easy to sway to the negative side. We are such a volatile group. We have got to be ready to go to Houston and make something happen. We have two games we desperately need against teams in a similar place in the standings. We need to win to get some momentum into the tournament."
Marshall will travel to Houston, Texas, next weekend to finish the season against Rice (3-10, 10-17) on Feb. 28, then play the cross-town Cougars of UH (8-6, 14-14 and losers of five C-USA games in a row) on March 1. The C-USA Tournament starts on March 6 in Orlando, Florida, at the New UCF Arena on the campus of the University of Central Florida.