"One of the things we told (the team) before this game was we needed to prove we could go on the road and beat a quality opponent before we open Conference USA play at East Carolina on Saturday," Marshall assistant coach Roxanne White told MU student station WMUL 88.1 FM after the game at the Comcast Center on the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Md. "We showed today we could play with a lot of courage and a lot of heart on the road, which is important with three road games to open C-USA play starting this weekend."
Marshall will also play at SMU on Jan. 8 and Tulsa on Jan. 10, plus face West Virginia University in the Capital City Classic on Jan. 14 before returning home on Jan. 18 for three straight home contests in league play. The Herd women's team had lost two in a row overall, two straight away from the Henderson Center and four of its last five games before Tuesday's win over the Bulldogs.
The Herd jumped out to a 10-0 lead to start the game and Marshall went on a 15-2 stretch to open up its largest lead of the game at 30-16. Keona Brooks led the way at that point, recording six of eight Marshall (7-5) points over a three-minute stretch. UNC Asheville turned the tables once again, finishing the half with a 14-6 run to close within six points, 36-30, at halftime. The Bulldogs' Ana Baker was pivotal in the run, scoring seven of the final ten points of the half for UNCA, eventually finishing the opening half with 14 points.
Chantelle Handy scored ten points in the first eight minutes of the second half as Marshall opened up with an 11-0 run to go up by 17. With Marshall then up to a 64-44 advantage, Alix Barnette scored eight of MU's next ten points as it opened up a 74-52 lead. The lead reached as many as 29 points with 4:37 remaining before UNC-Asheville set the final at 89-68.
Handy paced the herd with 14 points, on 6-of-8 shooting and 1-for-1 from three, while Brooks chipped in a career high 13 points along with grabbing a career best four rebounds. Brooks was perfect from the field on 5-of-5 shooting and 3-for-4 at the free throw line. "Keona was in a boot the first six weeks of the season, so she was six weeks behind the rest of the team," said White of an early season foot injury. "She had to come along slowly, but now she will race up and down the court, getting points in transition, but can only play three-to-four minutes at a time before she is gassed." Barnette and Angelica "Stick" Harris each finished with 11 points for MU.
Barnett was 0-for-6 against Mississippi State on Monday. The Herd senior two-guard scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting, including hitting both of her three-point attempts. She led the Herd in rebounding with six and added four assists. "She waited on her shots today," said White, "but we told her before the game to get on the boards. It's a great motivator for Alix with Alaya Mitchell (six points, three boards) playing the same position so well ." Casey Baker led MU with seven assists, of the 26 recorded by the Herd in the game, against just four turnovers in 26 minutes at the point, scoring five points. Tynikki Crook had nine points and two boards.
The Herd forced UNC-Asheville (3-9) into 17 turnovers and converted the take-aways into 28 points. Marshall also dominated the game inside, scoring 38 points in the paint to just 10 points for the Bulldogs. That was despite UNCA out-rebounding the Herd, 40-35. Marshall shot lights-out in the game, hitting 36-of-60 (60 percent) and 6-of-15 from three (40 percent). Marshall not only scorched the nets on the offensive end, it also played strong defensively, holding the Bulldogs to 35 percent shooting and just 23 field goals on 66 attempts. The Herd hit 11-of-14 at the line, 79 percent, while UNCA hit 16-of-24, 67 percent. The Herd got 39 points from the bench in the game.
Ana Baker led UNCA with 14 points, while Kendall Shepard had 13 points for the Bulldogs and Lindsey Thompson scored 11 points in the loss. Marshall will play at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Minges Coliseum against the Pirates of East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. All MU women's games can be heard on WMUL 88.1 FM or tracked at Herdzone.com's All-Access.