"It was a wild game," said MU women's coach Royce Chadwick. There were a lot of swings, changes and crazy stuff, especially down the stretch. I thought we played like a veteran team in that if any craziness happened, we were able to keep our head in the game and not cause ourselves back-to-back problems. I thought our freshmen arose to the occasion and did some really good things. Chantelle Handy was remarkable in what she was able to accomplish."
Marshall (10-7, 3-1 C-USA) shot .508 from the field, its seventh game hitting 50 percent of its shots or better. Last season the Herd hit that mark just three times. With the loss, East Carolina (10-7, 1-3 C-USA) falls to 1-3 in conference play. After blowing out the Herd in Greenville, N.C., 70-47, the Pirates have lost three straight conference games.
The win by Marshall kept a series streak alive. Since both teams have been in C-USA, the home team is a perfect 8-0. The Herd has won three in a row since the opening loss - at SMU, at Tulsa and the revenge game with East Carolina. With the score tied at 28-28 with 6:24 remaining in the first half, Casey Baker powered the Herd on an 11-2 run to open up a 39-30 lead, its largest advantage of the game. Baker scored eight straight for Marshall, including two treys. A late 7-0 run by ECU in the last 1:17 of the half closed the lead to two, 43-41, going into the locker room.
"East Carolina coming back shows how important it is to have Casey Baker in the game," MU Associate Head Coach Roxanne White told MU student station WMUL 88.1 FM after the game. "She goes out and the wondering starts. We were tough enough to stand that late stretch, we endured." Marshall scorched the nets in the opening minutes of the second half, extending its lead by 14 points in the first 3:38 of the half. Handy had the hot hand, recording eight points over that span as the Herd opened up a 58-42 lead.
It was a hot head that had the MU coaches most concerned about Handy, as the flu attacked the Herd's Durham, England junior after the WVU loss. Handy missed practice on both Thursday and Friday, getting intravenous fluids in a local hospital. She came out of sick bay on Saturday for a career day on Sunday. "I don't know what was in that juice they gave Chantelle," said White, "but that was some great stuff!"
White shared how Chadwick told Handy on Sunday about how Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls came out to play in a game seven in the 1998 NBA Finals and scored 40 points. Obviously, the junior took the story to heart. "She is a warrior, a leader and came up big for us today," said White on Handy's day.
With Marshall's lead at 16 points, the ECU's defense clamped down at that point and held Marshall to just a point over the next five minutes of the game. The Pirates brought out the full court pressure, which forced the Herd into four turnovers that led to five points over that span. With 7:18 left in the game, the Herd knew it had a battle on its hands when East Carolina closed a ten-point lead down to four with six minutes remaining. A 7-0 run over the next two minutes, five of those point coming from Rashedah Henriques, put MU up by 11.
The Pirates had yet another run in them, scoring seven of the next eight points to cut the lead back to four with three minutes left on the clock. The teams exchange baskets over the next two minutes before Marshall held a 79-71 advantage with 46 seconds left. A pair of threes, by ECU's Jasmine Young and Allison Spivey, in those final seconds brought the Pirates within three points before a lay-up by Young cut the Herd lead to two, 84-82, with seven seconds left.
A foul sent Handy to the line with six seconds left. She hit one of two shots to put MU up by three. Then a quick foul by Handy, called for by Chadwick, sent ECU back to the line, after hitting the first free throw, they intentionally missed the second. The Herd's Angelica Harris pulled the rebound as the remaining time ran off the clock and Marshall held on for the two-point win, 85-83. The 85 points for the Herd is the third-most points the Herd has scored all season, with wins in games with 91 points over Houston Baptist and 89 points against UNC-Asheville. The 83 points allowed by a MU opponent is the most since Evansville scored a 89-77 win over Marshall in Evansville, Ind. in the opening game of the 2007-08 season in the Pre-Season WNIT.
Handy led all players with a career-best 25 points, plus three rebounds and six assists. Just behind her was Baker, who put up 19 points, seven assists, seven steals and three rebounds. As a team, the Herd had an amazing 26 assists on 31 field goals. Crook had another stellar outing, scoring 13 points, grabbing seven boards and dishing out a career-best five assists.
"Ty gets doubled a lot, although we move her from the high post to the low corner and the block," said White. "The guards really get aggressive with her on defense, but Ty finds the open player most of the time. "Rashedah Henriques (11 points) was the recipient of Ty's gifts today. Ty is not where she needs to be to be a complete player," said White of the Herd's sophomore center. "If she will work on her fundamentals, she could be the best player I've ever coached. Henriques' 11 points was a career high for the red-shirt freshman.
ECU saw LaCoya Terry, who scored 17 in the first meeting two weeks ago, backed that up with 22 points while Jasmine Young chipped in 20 to go with five assists and five boards. Neither squad held a large advantage on the stat sheet. Each team finished with 31 field goals and 19 turnovers. ECU held a slight 41-38 advantage in rebounds while the Herd had the shooting advantage, .508-to-.456 from the field. The Herd turned the 19 takeaways into 26 points, while East Carolina had only 17 points on the Herd's 19 turnovers.
Marshall will look to extend its C-USA winning streak to four games as it plays host to UAB and Memphis next weekend. The Herd will tangle with UAB on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Henderson Center before facing Memphis at noon on Saturday. Saturday's contest against Memphis will be nationally televised by CSS and fans are being encouraged to attend with signs supporting the Herd.