Hart led the Herd with with 18 points, including the game winner over the No. 3 seed in the Conference USA Tournament in the Blazers, who finish 14-16 on the season despite a 10-6 mark in the regular season in C-USA. Hart hit 5-of-10 from three in the game and added seven rebounds, four assists and a steal in the win. "She came out shooting well, and shot the last shot very well," said Shepard-Hall.
Tynikki Crook had her second-consecutive double-double in the tournament, leading the Herd with 10 rebounds. Crook also had a block, her fourth in tournament play, and the freshman hit 4-of-6 from the field and 5-of-9 from the free throw line. "Ty has to control the paint for us," said Shepard-Hall, a former Marshall star player. "We tell her, 'that's your paint, your house, take care of it.'" Marshall had a 49-40 edge in rebounding and has a plus-22 rebounding in the first two tournament games.
Crook agreed, remembering that UAB had out-rebounded Marshall 42-35 in the Cam Henderson Center. She talked about having 19 offensive rebounds as a team. "It was very important," said the freshman, left off the All-C-USA Freshman team despite eight points and a team-leading 5.5 rebounds per game, and an even better 6.2 rebounds per game in league games. "I believe the last UAB game we were out-rebounded by them. We just knew we had to go out and rebound, because we did not want to lose to the same team three times in one year." Crook now has four double-doubles on the year, two in the tournament so far.
UAB, who beat Marshall in Huntington 60-48 and in Birmingham 79-64 in overtime, was without senior Crystal McFadden, who had 14 points and eight rebounds in the win in Huntington. McFadden has a broken orbital bone in her right eye. In her place, first team All-C-USA player Diamond Rogers had 23 points, five assists and a block. Rogers missed the UAB-MU game in Huntington when the Blazers held Marshall to its lowest point total at home in five years.
"Diamond, being a senior, did what upperclassmen do in tournament play," said Shepard-Hall. "She stepped up." Also for UAB Brittany Jones had 17 points and five steals, while freshman Amanda Peterson had eight points.
Marshall also got solid games from sophomore Alyssa Hammond, who hit 5-of-9 from the field, was 3-for-3 at the line and had 13 points and five rebounds. Casey Baker scored 12 points before fouling out, along with two assists, two steals and three rebounds but once again had over half of the Herd's turnovers with eight. MU turned the ball over 15 times, cutting down from 23 in the win over Tulane, and Baker has 20 of 38 turnovers so far in the tournament.
Head coach Royce Chadwick was pleased with the win, and the team playing so well together. "We have a lot of very good players, and when we play team basketball we set each other up and have a chance to score," said Chadwick, now 105-102 in seven years at Marshall. "We had to not find our second option, but our third and fourth option. We did a good job in stretches of finding that third or fourth options. I thought Meagan Samis, Kendra King, (they) stepped up, and we have more unsung heroes in our locker room than we do stars."
Marshall shot 37.7 percent from the field, making 26-of-69. The Herd had five threes, all by Hart, and shot 35.7 percent behind the arc. Marshall was 14-of-22 from the line. UAB hit 26-of-65 for 40 percent, 8-of-26 from three for 31 percent and knocked down 9-of-11 free throws. The Blazers saw 17 turnovers turn into 15 points for the Herd. Marshall still trails in the all-time series with UAB, with three wins in eight meetings, but broke a five-game losing streak. The Blazers have missed a chance for a championship again, having only advanced to the finals one time in C-USA play, back to 1995.
Marshall will now get ready to step up a seed, as the Herd will play the No. 2 seed in the tournament, SMU, on Saturday at 3 p.m. The game can be seen on the CBS College Sports Network, formerly CSTV. All MU women's games are heard on the MU student station, WMUL 88.1 FM (www.marshall.edu/wmul on the web). GameTracker is also available on the Conference USA and Marshall web sites. The Mustangs beat No. 10 Tulsa, who upset No. 7 Memphis in round one, earlier on Friday, 68-49, as SMU's all-time leading scorer and rebounder Janielle Dodds poured in a team-high 16 points. Dodds is another first team all-league player.
Chadwick reminded his team of their time playing AAU basketball, when talking about playing a third game in three days. "We have been talking about how fun AAU basketball is, when you play in the summer with 77 games in June and another 80 in the month of July. We are trying to approach this like it is AAU," said Chadwick. "Allen Iverson would love this because there is not any practice. You just go play. So that is what we are going to do; we are going to go to the hotel room, talk and play tomorrow."
Marshall has a chance to break another losing streak in this C-USA Tournament. All-time against the Mustangs, 21-8 overall and 11-5 in C-USA, the Herd is 0-3. Marshall was 0-3 against Tulane before the first round win Thursday and had lost three in a row to UAB before Friday's win. The Mustangs won in Huntington back on January 20, 72-50, and won the previous season in Dallas, 65-48. MU's first meeting with SMU was a 2006 game in Huntington that saw the Mustangs prevail, 72-57. The Herd has lost those games to SMU by an average of 18 points per game.