A Cam Henderson Center crowd of 4,634 erupted as the game's officials went to check if the shot was released before the time ran out (and it was). Marshall had pulled out its fourth-consecutive win over SMU as the Thundering Herd players raced around the court after forward Markel Humphrey, with Octavius Spann jumping up onto a press table above the Herd radio crew in celebration.
Markel Humphrey (second from right) celebrated his game-winning 75-foot shot with teammates (from left) Dago Pena, Tyler Wilkerson, Marcus Goode and Damier Pitts. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Humphrey was only 1-for-4 from three, but the 75-foot shot was a high, arching rainbow that appeared on-line from the time it left the senior's hands. Marshall (9-9, 2-2 in Conference USA) head coach Donnie Jones barely saw the ball go through the hoop, however. "I was trying to get a time out at the other end, jumping up and down," said Jones, whose young team is 8-1 at home in Huntington. "When Markel shot the ball, I turned my back to the court. I just glanced over my shoulder as the ball hit in the square and went into the basket. I'm glad the officials didn't look at me (for the timeout)."
Many Herd fans were comparing the Humphrey shot to the "Shot 'Herd' Round The World" by former Herd guard Bruce Morris on Feb. 7, 1985. Morris, who grabbed an Appalachian State shot, blocked by MU forward James "Skeeter" Roberts, turned and threw the ball 89-feet, 10-inches for the longest shot ever made in college basketball. His foot prints, with the date and distance, are just about 14 feet behind where Humphrey released the game-winner.
"I just threw it up," Humphrey said. "I got the rebound and saw that the clock was running out, I heard Damier yell and I took a couple dribbles and just threw it up. I saw the clock, and when it went in I knew it was good because I released it before the backboard turned red." Humphrey finished with nine points in the game, four rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 30 minutes. The senior has played all season with a stress fracture in his left foot, made worse by a deep bone bruise in the same foot that happened during the Dayton game.
Markel Humphrey, just after releasing his 75-foot game-winning shot against SMU, in front of the Mustangs' bench. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"It was a lucky play," said Jones. "But I'm glad it was Markel Humphrey. He has gone through a lot, injury-wise. It was a game the Herd could have certainly lost or, more aptly, given away. Marshall had a lead of ten points, 15-5, with 12:42 to play in the first half. Then MU missed all but three of its next 23 shots to end the first half, with the lead down to 23-19 at the break. In the second half, Marshall again pushed the lead out to eight points, 29-21, but back came SMU (6-10, 1-3 C-USA). The Mustangs tied the game with ten minutes to play, 38-38, then grabbed the lead 1:10 later, 40-38.
SMU stretched it out to a five-point edge, 46-41, with 5:50 to play. Back came Marshall, behind two threes by freshman point guard Damier Pitts and one by Chris Lutz for a 50-47 lead with 3:49 to play. Lutz, who had hit only 1-of-17 threes in the last five games, came through like early in the season by leading the Herd with 12 points by hitting 4-for-10 from behind the arc. But SMU answered with a three from Mouhammad Faye, who led all scorers with 17 points, and the game remained 50-50 until Williams miss, from about three-feet away, and Humphrey's "Marshall Miracle" from about 72-foot longer than the SMU miss.
Chris Lutz hit 4-of-10 three-point shots against the Mustangs, including this one over Mouhammad Faye in the second half.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
SMU is now 0-for-4 against the Thundering Herd, and all of those games have been like Wednesday night's game. In 2005-06, Marshall won in Dallas, Tex. by 75-72 in overtime. In 2006-07 in Huntington, a 18-18 halftime ended with a 52-49 win by the Herd when SMU missed a three at the buzzer. Last year back at SMU's Moody Coliseum, Mark Dorris nailed a three at the buzzer for a 75-74 win and then Humphrey's 75-foot shot tonight.
Shooting wise, both team struggled. SMU shot 18-of-46, 39 percent, while the Herd hit only 20-of-54 for 37 percent. Humphrey's long three was the ninth of the game for Marshall, coming on 29 attempts (31 percent) while SMU hit five of 13 tries (38.5 percent). Both teams were equally brutal at the line: MU was 4-of-8, the Mustangs were not much better at 56 percent (9-of-16). But Marshall defense forced 16 turnovers, leading to 12 points, and seven offensive rebounds led to four points.
Tyler Wilkerson wrestled with SMU's Robert Nyakundi for this rebound in the second half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
SMU finished plus-three on rebounds, 37-to-34, but were plus-six at the half. Tyler Wilkerson led MU with six rebounds and tied Humphrey with nine points. Pitts scored all six points in the second half, once again, and had eight assists and only two turnovers in 34 minutes. "We are trying to get our team to understand when the shots aren't falling, they have to do other things to win," said Jones. "I don't judge this team on how many shot they are making, but on the energy they bring to the court. Tonight, they brought energy."
On of the players Jones especially liked was freshman Dago Pena. He scored six points, was second on the team with five rebounds, had three steals, a block and an assist, and used his skills to knock away some other balls that led to steals or keep rebounds alive. "We played hard tonight. When you play hard, things like that happen," Humphrey said.
Marshall will travel to UCF on Saturday for a game in the UCF Arena in Orlando, Fla. on Sunday at 2 p.m. Then Marshall will fly straight to Hattiesburg, Miss. where the Herd will meet Southern Miss on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. (eastern time). The game will play on ESPN 930 AM, The Dawg, 93.7 FM and the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network.