"I'm proud of our guys tonight," said Jones. "We obviously didn't get the win, and I'll never accept the moral victory. We lost our third game, but I think we improved every game." No doubt about that, as Marshall grabbed a tournament-best 43 rebounds, 18 on the offensive glass, and were plus-12 in that category over Ole Miss of the SEC. The Herd also had its best night behind the arc, hitting 33 percent against the Rebels and leading the entire second half until Ole Miss grabbed the lead with 1:55 left.
"It would have been easy to tuck our heads after the loss on Friday (72-67 to Morgan State)and the loss on Saturday (72-66 to Wisconsin-Green Bay). We came out today and played with great energy. You play teams like Ole Miss, they are very, very talented, with a good bench, and it caught up with us a little bit late. No excuses, you have to fight through and make plays."
One real excuse, however, was the second game missed by Chris Lutz, who is battling a hamstring injury. He did not play against UWGB either, and was just 1-of-7 shooting in the opener against Morgan State. In addition, Mississippi also had the advantage of playing on two games, losing to Utah on Friday and then having Saturday off before meeting the Herd on Sunday.
That really showed in the second half, when Ole Miss shot 52 percent, making 12-of-23 shots. MU could only muster 30 percent, making 8-of-27, and appeared leg weary towards the end of three games in three days, although part of the reason the Herd came to Daytona was to experience tournament play. Free throws, a real problem in the first two losses with a 61 and 63 percent nights, were how the Herd kept the lead in the second half over Ole Miss. Marshall made 14-of-17, 82 percent, in the second half and shot 83 percent for the game at the line (25-of-30).
Marshall was led in scoring once again by freshman guard Shaquille Johnson. The Jacksonville native scored in double figures for the fourth time in four games with four starts, in front of many family and friends. He had 15 points. Tyler Wilkerson played his best game in the short start of the season, recording his sixth career double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds (six offensive). Markel Humphrey added 11 points, hitting 7-of-9 at the free throw line, and had nine rebounds, three assists, no turnovers, two blocks and three steals in a team-leading 34 minutes.
The nice surprise was the outstanding play of the Herd's first-year sophomore center, Marcus Goode. Goode, who sat out with academic problems at MU last year and The Patterson School in North Carolina the year before coming to Marshall, was a man among boys at times. He was a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, showing a very soft touch around the basket but also a rim-rattling dunk later in the game. Goode scored a career-best 14 points, added a career-best six rebounds (four offensive) and blocked a career-best three shots in 15 minutes of playing time.
The Herd outscored the Rebels in the first half, 46-42, thanks to two threes from Florida transfer Brandon Powell, one at the four minute mark and another at the 3:49 mark of the first half. MU outscored Ole Miss 10-3 in the last four minutes of the first half to take a lead to the locker room for the first time in the tourney.
Marshall led the second half, never by more than six points, or were tied twice in the half in a game that ended up with 13 ties and eight lead changes. The Rebels tied the game at 70-70 with 4:55 to go, then again at 72-72 with just 2:30 to play. Marshall lost the ball on a key play, as the teams were on the floor for a loose ball and freshman Damier Pitts appeared to get control and call for time, but the SEC crew ignored the time and called a jump ball. The arrow gave the ball to Ole Miss, and it was the first of three turnovers for MU in the last two minutes of play.
Out of the time out, Mississippi set a play to junior guard David Huertas, who nailed a three out of the set play to give the Rebels a 75-72 lead. MU cut the lead to one on a Wilkerson dunk with 1:10 to go. Pitts, who had three turnover in the final two minutes (of six in the game), had his pocket picked by sophomore Chris Warren of UM, after Humphrey gave the Herd a chance to take the lead on his steal. Warren laid the ball in off his steal and Mississippi was up three, 77-74, with just :43 on the clock.
After a UM timeout, Humphrey hit one of two free throws to make the game 77-75. Wilkerson got the rebound but missed on the stick back. As Pitts attempted to get to that rebound, he fouled Huertas, who hit both attempts to regain the lead, 77-75, matching the four-point lead the Rebels owned twice in the first half. On the next trip for the Herd, Pitts had his third turnover and Warren was fouled by Merthie to stop a break away lay-up. Warren hit one of two for the biggest lead by UM of the game, 80-75, with just eight seconds left.
Johnson nailed a desperate three-point shot with five seconds left, and Pitts immediately fouled Warren at the inbound. But Warren buried both free throws this time and pushed the lead to four, and that would be the final, 82-78. Marshall will practice at Emery-Riddle Academy on Monday in Daytona, then bus to Sanford, Fla. to check in a hotel closer to the airport for the trip home early Tuesday morning.
The Herd will at the Cam Henderson Center for five of the next six games, beginning with Old Dominion on Saturday, Nov. 29, at 11:30 a.m. The early start is because the game will part of a basketball-football doubleheader for Herd fans. The football team will host West Division co-leader Tulsa at 3:30 p.m. later on Saturday.
NOTES: Many Herd fans were in attendance at the tournament, some from the Huntington area, some the families of the coaching staff and many from Florida. There were both friends and families for Darryl Merthie (Sanford), Dago Pena (Punta Gorda), Kore White (Ft. Lauderdale) and Johnson, a sizable amount of locals for the Florida natives of the Herd. There were also some Florida Gators supporters who came to support former Gators like Jones, Brett Nelson and Brandon Powell. Humphrey had a big turnout, as he celebrated his 21st birthday with many relatives and friends from Atlanta, Ga...Of the listed crowds of 226 on Friday, 389 for Saturday and 512 on Sunday (probably the closest to a real count), nearly one-third of the crowd had on the Herd logos...The same Marshall fans took over the Legends Sports Bar at the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort Hotel were the bulk of the crowd on Saturday as fans gathered to watch the Herd at Rice. As the second half, and the Herd, wound down, fans were leaving in groups of three and four until there were about 20 die hards hanging out, including play-by-play announcer Vince Payne, who called all the games while the "Voice of the Herd," Steve Cotton, called the football game...Legends also hosted the "Insider Sportsline/Statewide" shows on Thursday when the Herd landed and checked in. A beautiful hotel right on the beach was the high point of taking three losses home. The window of the beach-front room of the broadcast crew was never completely shut, with temps in the 60s throughout...7-foot-2 Utah center Luke Nevill was body surfing in the ocean on Sunday. The sophomore, who had 16 points in the Utes' 66-37 win over Morgan State, is a native of Perth, Australia. He had a double-double in the win Friday over Ole Miss, and Utah was 3-0 in the tournament...Mississippi and Morgan State will meet in the final game of the Glenn Wilkes Classic next Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi.