Marshall (7-7, 0-1) picked a tough night to struggle shooting, although the Memphis (11-3, 1-0) defense had a say in that as well. Marshall shot just 18-of-63 in the game, 28.6 percent, and was only 3-for-17 from three, just 17.6 percent. The Herd eventually made 18-of-25 from the line, that in part to Markel Humphrey nailing 5-of-5 in the second half and 6-of-7 free throws in the game. Humphrey was also the best shooter with a 4-of-7 night in 28 minutes played.
On Sunday, Humphrey took an injection in his foot for swelling due to the deep bone bruise, suffered at Dayton, and the stress fracture that came early in the pre-season on his left foot. "We need his to be a leader for us," said MU head coach Donnie Jones. "We haven't practiced him all week to get him health, and we're going to need to rest him the right way so he can continue to get his energy like last year."
Junior forward Tyler Wilkerson played well when he was in the game, scoring 11 points and leading MU with eight rebounds, but was only able to play 22 minutes with four fouls. "Memphis is a very good basketball team," said Jones. "Their defensive intensity wore us down in the second half offensively. We tried to rest some guys in the first half, but we expended so much energy trying to stay in the game."
Two of Marshall's starters were once again shut down on the scoring end, as was one sub off the bench. Tirrell Baines, who didn't score at San Diego in the loss last week, scored only one point and was 0-for-5 from the floor. Chris Lutz, who hit 1-for-7 at the Toreros, hit none (0-5, 0-for-3 from three) did not score at all. Dago Pena was also 0-for-5/0-of-3 from three.
"We had some shots," said Jones, "we had some good shots, but we were (3-of-17) from the three-point line. We have to make threes against this team. We had some good looks but they didn't go down." Jones knows Lutz scoring is important, as the Herd was 1-4 with him out of the lineup, and 6-2 with his return from his hamstring injury, although Jones still believes he is playing only 85-to-90 percent healthy.
"Chris Lutz is a guy that we're fighting for. His confidence is rattled right now, but he has to find a way to come into games and make some shots. I thought he had some good looks." Marshall played only 10 against the Tigers, who played 13 on the night, also adding to the Herd's fatigue factor.
Shaquille Johnson, who had six points on his ten-point average, struggled handling the ball and was 3-for-9 shooting plus missed both free throws. After getting a steal and a bucket to cut the lead to one, 29-28 for the Tigers late in the first half, his misses at the line and a turnover turned a one-point game into a seven-point game at half, 35-28, as Antonio Anderson hit a three-point play with 1:30 to go and a three at the buzzer for the seven point lead.
The second half, however, was all Memphis, as Marshall went five minutes between a Wilkerson lay-up, at 19:30, and Johnson scoring at 14:31. By then, Memphis was up by as much at 15 points. "It got to 12, got to 14 and every time we had a chance, we didn't make plays," said Jones.
Memphis head coach John Calipari was happy the second half defense worked, but didn't like the start of his team, down four to the Herd early. "You know, we turned up the defensie in the second half and that was good," said Calipari, who extended his UM winning mark with his 230th victory. "But the way we started the game, we just can't start games that way against elite teams. I mean, we were lucky we weren't down by ten. I think Antonio's three at the end of the half was big, it gave us some breathing room and we started out the second half the same way," said Calipari.
Memphis' heralded freshman point guard, Tyreke Evans, struggled offensively, although he was second on the team in rebounds with eight. After averaging 22 points and 6.6 assists per game in the last three wins for Memphis, Marshall held Evans to just 3-of-11 shooting, 0-for-2 from three and 11 points, with two assists against three turnovers. "Tyreke played poorly, and we still win," said Calipari. "Which means he can play poorly and we can still win."
MU's Damier Pitts matched up well with the other young guard, who Pitts was undefeated against in AAU play. Marshall's frosh point guard scored 11 points, on 3-of-12 shooting (2-for-7 from three) and had three assists against just one turnover in 30 minutes.
Marshall doesn't have much time to catch it's breath, as East Carolina comes to Huntington on Saturday at 3 p.m. with the C-USA home opener. The Pirates knocked off Tulane on Wednesday night to improve to 9-5 overall, 1-0 in league play. "It's a good team, Mack McCarthy has done a good job," said Jones of the Pirates. "We've got to get on edge and get ready for them. We'll get back to work when we get off the bus tomorrow and start preparing for East Carolina." After ECU Saturday, the Herd will travel to Charleston for the annual meeting with No. 22/25 West Virginia on Wednesday, then head to Tulsa next Saturday, who opened with a win over Southern Miss tonight.