Markel Humphrey had pulled out the last home game for the Herd when his 74-foot, one-inch shot had beaten SMU, 53-50. But tonight, his first attempt was blocked by Lawrence Kinnard of UAB, the Blazer's Aaron Johnson got the rebound and MU fouled the sophomore UAB guard. With the score 75-73, Johnson missed both tries.
Tyler Wilkerson grabbed the last of his team-best 13 rebounds and fed Humphrey for a last shot. From about 30-feet away along press row, Humphrey was dead online, but just short as the ball grazed the front of the iron and the Herd fell to 9-12, 2-5 in Conference USA play. Humphrey finished with a season-best 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and two of those three misses were in the final 4.5 seconds of overtime.
Markel Humphrey threw down this dunk in front of UAB's Lawrence Kinnard as part of his 20 points in the loss to the Blazers Saturday night in Huntington. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The loss was Marshall's second at home, and opens up a home stand that sees Marshall play three more in a row at the Henderson Center and four of the next five games where the Herd is 8-2 this season. But UAB (14-8, 4-3 in C-USA) won for the third time in five games in Huntington. The Blazers also won for the first time this season in league play on the road.
"Yeah, we are disappointed," said Marshall head coach Donnie Jones. "I'm proud of these (Marshall) guys, it was right there and could win the game. We just didn't play well enough, didn't make the plays we needed to win."
Marshall made an effort to go inside with the ball, and the "big men" on the Herd's team responded with some of their best play in recent games. Tyler Wilkerson had his 11th double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Octavius Spann got his first start all season and responded with his best game in a Marshall uniform. Spann had his first double-double with career bests in both points, with 14, and in rebounds, with ten. The player who Spann replaced in the lineup, Tirrell Baines, came off the bench and scored nine points with six rebounds despite turning an ankle in practice this week.
Octavius Spann scored this basket over UAB's Robert Vaden in the second half. Spann scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the overtime loss to the Blazers. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Jones was very happy with Spann's effort. "I was proud of Tay, he played very well," said Jones of the junior who transferred from Georgetown University to Marshall. "He was attacking, scored some points and grabbed some rebounds. He had a free throw that could have maybe put us over the top in regulation, but other than that he had a great night."
Jones was referring to the end of regulation when Spann, who was 3-of-4 at the line, had his only miss on the second free throw 38 seconds to play and Marshall up 69-66. Lawrence Kinnard came up with the rebound and nailed about a 22-foot three from the top of the arc to tie the game at 69-69 with 28 seconds left. The Herd had a chance to win, but Pitts three was off line. The freshman had only two points, coming at the line, as he was 0-of-12 from the field and 0-for-7 from three on the night.
Kinnard led the Blazers with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, and recorded the Blazers only block on Humphrey with 4.5 seconds left. Paul Delaney III scored 19 points with six assists and three steals.
UAB's Robert Vaden, the pre-season Conference USA pick for Player of the Year, hit his average with 18 points to go with four rebounds, an assist and a steal. Vaden was only 6-of-17 from the field, but 4-of-10 at the three-point line. He led the Blazers with 14 points in the first half, and UAB led 38-35 at halftime. Channing Toney chipped in 12 points for UAB and center Howard Crawford, who fouled out, had eight points. 73 of the 75 points UAB scored came from these five starters.
Tyler Wilkerson drew the foul from UAB's Lawrence Kinnard on this basket in the second half. Wilkerson scored 13 points and had 13 rebounds in the overtime loss to UAB. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
UAB has four fifth-year seniors and their roster average is 23-years old. The Blazers continued to make the Herd defense look impotent as they hit 29-of-55 from the floor or 53 percent. UAB had a 7-of-15 night from three, 47 percent, but shot only 10-of-17 from the line.
Marshall countered with Humphrey, who Jones challenged after the losses at UCF and Southern Miss. "Markel Humphrey probably played his best game this season," said Jones of his only senior, who is playing with a stress fracture and bone bruise in his left foot. "He played tough. He attacked the basket. We wanted to go to him down the stretch and have him make a play, go to the rim and draw a foul, but their guy made a great play on the block." The Herd has an average age for its team of just 20-years old.
It was a tough night for the Marshall frosh class, in their first collegiate overtime game. Pitts did not make a basketball in 12 tries and missed 2-of-4 at the free throw line for two points. Fellow frosh Shaquille Johnson hit only 1-of-2 and had two points while Dago Pena came off the bench for a 1-for-4 night and two points as well.
The Herd's Daryl Merthie, a senior who has earned his prop year back for a fourth year in 2009-10, scored four points and had five assists, tops on the team, in just 10 minutes of play behind Pitts. Merthie also had an steal while junior Chris Lutz hit his only three and scored only three points with an assist. The Herd shot 43 percent from the floor (26-of-61) but only 3-for-14 from three, or 21 percent. The Herd did shoot well at the line, hitting 18-of-21, and out-rebounded the Blazers by nine, 38-to-29.
"We are going to continue to work," said Jones, who emphasized the improvement of his team in a two-point overtime loss to a team picked to challenge Memphis for the C-USA title. "We have gotten better, and this was one of our best games tonight although we didn't win. We played a very good team tonight and I'm not taking anything away from UAB but we put ourself in a position to win and we can't let this game beat us against Tulsa.
"We have got to stop Jerome Jordan," said Jones of Tulsa's 7-foot junior center. "He had 25 against us there, and had 25 against UAB last Saturday." Jordan, who also registered a double-double against Marshall with 10 rebounds, hit a four-foot shot with just a second remaining to beat UAB in Tulsa last Saturday. The Herd lost to the Golden Hurricane 69-50 back on Jan. 17 despite shooting 48 percent from the floor and 57 percent from three. Tipoff against TU is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Henderson Center, and can be heard on ESPN 930 AM and The Dawg, 93.7 FM in Huntington and all over the Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network.
NOTES: UAB receiver Mike Jones joined the Blazers in December when the team lost four players, two who transferred and two who became academically ineligible. Jones joined the team as Head Coach Mike Davis' son, Mike Jr., rejoined the team after sitting out the fall with academic difficulties. Jones, who did not get into the MU game, had 11 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown for UAB...Former Marshall Director of Athletics Lee Moon, now the Associate A.D. at UAB, was part of the travel party. Moon was at Marshall from 1988-1995, when Marshall opened the new football stadium, set up the Thundering Herd network for television and radio, moved the I-AA Championships to the Joan C. Edwards Stadium from 1992-96 and set the table to MU's jump to I-A football and the Mid-American Conference, where MU hosted the championship game from 1997-2000 and 2002...Terrell Edwards, a sophomore-to-be running back for the Herd, is doing an internship with ISP Sports this semester for a class in Athletic Administration...The Herd football program had some recruits in this weekend, including receiver Aaron Dobson from South Charleston, who already committed, and quarterback A.J. Graham, Florida's state Player of the Year. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound QB is ranked 27th in the nation at his position by Rivals.com and has offers from MU, Clemson, Illinois State and Kansas State. Also visiting are safety Donald Brown, cornerback Cartavious Baldwin and Monterrious Lovette, also from Florida, as well as Darrell Martin, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound lineman form Georgia, 6-foot-7, 270-pound linema Corey Kenney from Virginia and placekicker Drew Stewart from North Carolina..Mickey Sydenstricker received a M-Club blanket at the UAB game, for his outstanding career playing baseball at Marshall.