Herd Loses Exhibition, 83-78

Marshall fell short while rallying back from a double-digit deficit to the talented Branch West exhibition basketball squad, and lost 83-78 at the Henderson Center on Saturday night. The loss to Branch West -fresh off a win over UCLA last week- provided Marshall with a unique learning experience instead of the typical blowout win.

"That was a great game and a great experience for a lot of our guys who haven't had the opportunity to be in a game like that," said Marshall coach Greg White. "They're very experienced, and play very well together," White said of Branch West.

Marshall guard Ron Blackshear found the lane jammed during the first half.

Marshall held the lead just once, at 6-4, before Branch West slowly pulled away and extended their lead to 13 points on Ron Bruton's dunk with 6:09 left in the first half. The Herd chipped away, reducing Branch West's lead to just five on Mark Patton's layup with :50 to go. Marshall was down only five, 43-38, at the half.

"It was a learning experience," said Marshall's Ron Blackshear. "We came out a little sluggish on defense, and they got out."

Branch West's lead again hit double digits -11- during the second half. A dunk by Marshall's David Anderson provided a spark with 8:47 to go, and the Herd again whittled away at the deficit. With 5:36 remaining, Monty Wright's three-pointer pulled the Herd to within three at 69-72. Nate Poindexter of Branch West answered with another three, and the Marshall threat was over. Branch West hit 4-of-5 free throws during the last :28 to secure the win over Marshall.

"Any time you beat a Mid-American Conference team at their place, I feel good about our team," said Branch West coach Bob Gottlieb. "There's no quit in those guys [Marshall]. They fought their way back. My God, they've got some great outside shooters, especially Blackshear."

Hometown product Mark Patton impressed with his 11 points, 11 rebounds in the first career start for the freshman.

Blackshear led all Marshall scorers with 24 points, hitting five three-pointers. Branch West double-teamed Blackshear in the second half, and limited Blackshear to only 6 points in the half.

"I'm going to get doubled all year," Blackshear said. "I've just got to get these guys to come and get the ball. It's really simple stuff."

Freshman forward Mark Patton received his first career start for the Herd, and did not disappoint. The hometown product hit his first double-double, good for 11 points and 11 rebounds in the effort.

"I wasn't as nervous as the last exhibition game," Patton added. "I was pretty relaxed. We've worked hard in practice, and now we have to carry it over into the game. Defensively, especially."

The unusual exhibition loss actually provided coach Greg White with something he hasn't had yet of his inexperienced team: Video of them in a solid contest against talented opponents.

"We've got to learn from that experience," White said. "That's a typical MAC game right there, it really is. We've got to know what we can and can't do defensively, right now. A good team makes you pay."

In addition to Blackshear's 24 points, Marshall also had three others in double figures: Mark Patton (11 points, 11 rebounds), Monty Wright (12 points, 6 assists), and Ardo Armpalu (11 points). The Herd shot 44.3% for the game (31-of-70), including 9-of-26 from three-point range.

Branch West was led by Nate Poindexter and Ron Bruton, both with 21 points. Branch West shot 54.1% for the game, and hit 30% of their three point shots (6-of-20).

Marshall now prepares for the season opener at MAAC opponent Niagra on Friday, November 22, before returning home to take on Kentucky State on November 25 at the Henderson Center.

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