Coach Donnie Jones tried to shake up the lineup by starting three of his four freshmen. Point guard Damier Pitts has started every game, Shaquille Johnson picked up his first start of the year and Dago Pena got his first start of the year. While Pitts scored 19 points, grabbed three rebounds and had no turnovers in 34 minutes played, Johnson, Pena and the rest of the Herd struggled against the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa.
Tulsa's 7-foot junior Jerome Jordan was the main thorn in the Herd's side, scoring a career-best 25 points and grabbing ten rebounds. It marked his sixth double-double in just the last seven games, including being named the Conference USA Player of the Week for play in wins over Southern Miss and Charlotte. He might win the award again, hitting 7-of-12 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free throw line to go along with three blocks.
"The big guy really hurt us inside, we didn't have an answer for him," Marshall head coach Donnie Jones said of Jordan. "He changes shots, does a lot of things for their team. He is a really good player."
Ben Uzoh, the junior point guard for TU, pumped in 16 points and three assists on the night, plus four rebounds and a steal. Marshall (8-9, 1-2 in C-USA) could not stop anyone on the Tulsa team in the first half, as the Golden Hurricane (12-6/2-1 C-USA) shot 60 percent from the floor (15-of-25), 4-for-4 from the line and 3-of-4 from the three-point line.
On the other hand, Marshall was just 9-for-24 (38 percent) and 0-of-8 from three in the first half. Even the free throws would not drop, as the Herd hit 3-of-8 at the stripe. Tulsa led by as many as 18 before going in with a 37-21 lead over the Herd.
"You know, we played a good basketball team and give them all the credit," said Jones, now 24-23 in his second season running the MU program. "The thing that's so disappointing is our veterans not showing up. They have got to give us something our younger players are still learning." Jones was also disappointed with the rebounding, especially when the Herd allowed three or four baskets to Tulsa on easy stick-backs.
"Three or four times we get some defensive stops in the first half then allow them to pick up the rebound or not secure the rebound and they get easy points. That cannot happen, because suddenly we're behind 12, 14 or 16 points instead of cutting into the lead."
While the second half was closer, Marshall trailed by as much at 29 points before closing to the 19-point final once TU coach Doug Wojcik cleared his bench in the final minutes. Tulsa was sloppy with the big lead, turning the ball over 11 times in the second half for 18 in the game. In its last three games, the Hurricane has turned the ball over 58 times and is still 2-1 in those games. TU shot only 6-of-19 (31 percent) in the second half.
The Herd shot even worse in the second half as well, although MU finally made two threes but in 11 attempts. In the second half, the Herd only made 6-of-26 shots, 23 percent. Free throw shooting helped Marshall tighten the game up, hitting 15-of-21 in the second half but only 18-of-29 in the game (62 percent). MU senior forward Markel Humphrey, junior center Tyler Wilkerson and Johnson each scored just six points which was next best on the Herd after Pitts' 19 points.
"We have got to make shots, we have got to score points," said Jones, "and if we don't, we have to get stops on defense." Tulsa dominated every stat line except turnovers, as MU had only eight, and steals, where Marshall led 7-2. But the Herd was out-rebounded by 18, worst performance of the year, as Tulsa pulled 41 boards to just 23 for Marshall. Pena led the Herd with five rebounds in the game and as a team Marshall had only four assists.
One bright spot was the return of 6-foot-10 sophomore Marcus Goode, who missed five games since Dec. 23rd trip to Dayton with a tear in his knee. Playing only seven minutes after just starting to practice earlier this week, Goode hit 1-of-3 from the field and blocked three shots in his return.
Marshall will return via the airport in Erlanger, Kentucky, on Sunday morning, then get back to work on Monday on getting ready for SMU on Wednesday night at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington. "We've got to get back and work hard to correct the mistakes and get ready for a good SMU team this week," said Jones. "We just have to work harder." SMU beat Tulane, 66-51, on Saturday to pick up its first C-USA win of the year. The Mustangs will come in 6-9 overall, 1-2 in C-USA.