Herd Tops BU In Boston, 84-80, Now 3-4

BOSTON - Marshall had lost six-straight non-conference road games as the Herd headed to the Northeastern U.S. to face Boston University, not to mention losing four of its last five games this season. That history lesson was wasted on the MU freshmen class, as Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson lead the Herd to a 84-80 win over BU, a pre-season pick to win the American East Conference.

Marshall's (3-4) dynamic freshman duo contributed 35 points in the matinee game at Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University (4-3), especially at the free-throw line. The Herd hit 84 percent from the line, knocking down 27-of-32 free throws in the game as well as 8-of-10 in the final minute of the game.

Damier Pitts knocked down 5-of-6 at the stripe in the last minute, 9-of-11 free throws in the game on the way to a career-best 20 points in his seventh game for the Herd. "Every game he is getting better for us, and that's what we need is him to run our club," said Jones, a former point guard, of his frosh point. "He had three assists, two turnovers. We had ten turnovers in the first half, three in the second. It made a big difference."

Shaquille Johnson, shown earlier this season at the Glenn Wilkes Tournament, had 15 points for the Herd in the win over Boston University, 84-80. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

Shaquille Johnson hit 4-of-4 from the line in the game, and ten of his 15 points came in the second half as he hit double-digits in scoring for the sixth time in seven outings. His head coach was happy with the effort of the entire team in the win.

"I feel a little better and I am really proud of our team," said head coach Donnie Jones of the win. "We needed an emotional win down the stretch, and they keep believing and working hard this week. This is a great road victory for us. You know it has come down to free throw. We've watched the last four losses and its come down to different things and free throws have been a part of it."

Not that Marshall's elder statesmen did not have a big impact in the win in the first true road game of the season, not counting the three neutral court wins in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach two weeks ago. Markel Humphrey was poked in the left eye in the first half, and the eye was nearly swollen shut after the game. Still, the senior had 11 points, all in the second half, and nailed 2-of-2 at the free throw line with :06.7 seconds left in the game to make it a two possession game. He also led the Herd in rebounds with six, four on the offensive end of the floor, in addition to two assists and a steal.

"I told him he only needed one eye to see the basket," said Jones of his senior. "He was really struggling and he needed that." Jones himself was under the weather with a severe sinus infection, while Octavius Spann played with the flu that has been making its way through the team recently.

Two of the players who were suffering the "bugs" effect last week were junior forward Tyler Wilkerson and sophomore forward Tirrell Baines, but they were at full-speed today for the Herd. Baines had eight points, five rebounds, an assist, steal and block. Wilkerson scored nine of his 15 points in the second half and had two rebounds and two blocks.

The Herd also got a lift from the return of freshman Dago Pena, wearing a shoulder harness after his injury that kept him out the last two game. Pena had three points, hitting 3-for-3 at the line. Also returning from injury for the first time after missing four games was junior Chris Lutz, who is nursing a hamstring injury.

Lutz got a trip near his home of Bedford, New Hampshire, and responded with family and friends in the stands cheering for the Herd. Lutz had 12 points, nailing 3-of-5 from the field as well as 3-of-4 from three and the free throw line. He played 20 minutes in his first game back since playing against Morgan State at Daytona back on Nov. 21.

"It was great to get Chris Lutz's minutes back. He makes a big difference for us, although he is about 70 percent (healthy)," said Jones. "Since this is near his home town, I would have hated not to play him. We got him 20 minutes, and I was hoping to just get him 15. We tried to trade him with Adam Williams on offense, defense, and how about they job (Adam) did?

Williams had about as much luck shutting down BU's Corey Lowe, a pre-season selection to the All-American East team and thought to be a possible Player of the Year in the league. Lowe hit 7-of-10 from three, 7-of-9 from the line and 11-of-19 overall for a career-high 36 points. Jones was impressed with the junior guard, who came into the game averaging a team-best 18 points per game for the Terriers. "Lowe, they got him the ball and he made some difficult shots," said Jones.

Marshall shot 50 percent from the field, making 25-of-50 shots, but even better from three. The Herd knocked down 7-of-12 behind the arc, for a season-best 58 percent. Marshall was good in the paint as well. After being out-scored by 26 in the paint by ETSU, the Herd out-scored the Terriers by ten, 32-to-22. Despite losing the rebound battle 33-30 to Boston University, the Herd still had a 21-14 edge on second chance baskets by taking advantage of 13 offensive rebounds.

Jones knows the Herd will need some time this week to take care of academics, with finals all week, but hopes to squeeze in some lessons on the home court as well. "All of our guys contributed tonight, and we got one more game back towards .500," said Jones. "We've got a week coming up here (at Marshall) for finals. We'll have a chance to fix some things with a couple of practices under our belt."

Marshall will play doubleheaders with the women's team on consecutive Saturdays, starting Dec. 13. The women will play at 3 p.m. and the men will tip at 7 p.m. Jones' team will face UT-Arlington for the first time next Saturday, face long-time rival Ohio U. on Wednesday, Dec. 17, then come back for another DH with the women on Dec. 20, in a first-ever meeting against a NAIA school from the Mid-South Conference, the University of The Cumberlands. The final game before Christmas is against the undefeated Flyers of Dayton (Ohio).

Marshall and Dayton first met in 1935, as members of the Buckeye Conference, and the teams played on a regular basis through 1950. Marshall won the last meeting with UD on Dec. 2, 2000, 67-65 and leads the all-time series 24-5. Ohio and Marshall will meet for the 94th time since 1931, and the Bobcats lead the series 50-43. Both teams were members of the Buckeye Conference, and Ohio has been a member of the Mid-American Conference since 1947-48. MU was in the MAC 1953-69 and again from 1997-2005. MU won the last meeting with OU, 70-60, in January of 2007.

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