With the win, Marshall (10-13, 3-6 in Conference USA) was able to break a four-game losing streak overall and having lost two straight at home, including an overtime loss to UAB last Saturday in the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington. The Herd was led to the win by career-bests in scoring by both junior Chris Lutz and true freshman Shaquille Johnson.
Chris Lutz single-handedly took control of the game against Tulane, scoring 37 points including seven three-point shots. Lutz also hit this basket over Tulane's Daniel Puckett and Robinson Louisme in the second half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Lutz, the transfer from Purdue who led the Big Ten in three-point shooting two seasons ago, was just 1-of-6 at halftime, all from three, and as a team MU was 1-of-9 behind the arc. The Herd was being out-played, out-shot and out-hustled as Tulane (9-13, 3-6) who went from a 9-9 tie at the 13:32 mark to a 15-0 run in which Marshall did not score for nearly six minutes. The Green Wave led by 39-26 at half, including a easy layup for Robinson Louisme hitting that shot uncontested from the baseline on an in-bounds play with :01.7 seconds left in the half.
The Marshall coaching staff, especially head coach Donnie Jones, were not amused as they headed to the locker room down 13 points. "What a great game, what a game by our guys," said Jones on the post-game radio show, but quickly added, "I went to the locker room probably as mad as I have ever been, frustrated and disappointed that the effort just wasn't there. A lack of confidence.
"I challenged our guys, challenged their hearts, and told them we would play the players who were going to fight even if we got blown out by 25, or we are going to win." Jones was excited about the way the team answered that challenge. "They went out, they played hard and they competed and they got the win today. I can't tell you how proud I am of them."
Shaquille Johnson stepped up in the win over Tulane, scoring 22 points and grabbing this steal from Tulane's Trent Rogers in the second half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Lutz responded with a huge second half, hitting his first three of the half just four minutes in as the Herd cut the lead to nine points. He would finish the second half a perfect 6-for-6 from three, plus he added six more buckets by driving to the basket when the defense came up on top of him to try and stop the three. Five of his career-best 37 points came in the overtime period.
"I just got in a rhythm in the second half and all of my teammates were fighting hard to get us back in it," Lutz said. "We dug ourselves a hole early, but kept fighting." His 37-point effort is the third-highest single-game effort in Conference USA this season and the highest single-game effort from a Marshall player since Ronald Blackshear scored 40 points at Eastern Michigan in 2003 (Feb. 3). Marshall's last 30 point scorer was Mark Patton against SMU on Feb. 15, 2006.
"Chris Lutz played the way Chris Lutz can play," said Jones of his guard. Another guard who had a huge night was Johnson, who moved to the point when starter Daryl Merthie picked up his third foul just two minutes into the second half. Damier Pitts was on the bench for the first time this season instead of at point guard, as he had struggled in three of the last four games, but was ineffective in 12 minutes played off the bench with no points on an 0-for-1 night with just one assist against one turnover.
Tirrell Baines celebrated The Herd's overtime win against Tulane on Saturday night in Huntington. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Johnson, who had seven points at the break, came alive at point. He would score eight points in the second half and seven of the Herd's 13 points in overtime, including 5-of-6 at the line. He made the game 89-86 with two free throws with eight seconds in the extra period and celebrated with teammates when TU's Kevin Sims three, contested well by Tirrell Baines on the other end, missed and Markel Humphrey secured the rebound for the win. Johnson was 11-of-13 at the line in the game, 5-of-11 from the field and 1-of-3 from three, coming in the second half.
"We moved Shaq to the point," said Jones of Merthie's third foul. "His mom was here tonight from Jacksonville (Fla.), and his grandma, and I told them they are not allowed go home," said Jones with a smile. "He played great." Johnson had five assists with only two turnovers in 37 minutes, picking up four steals to lead MU in that category and with three rebounds.Humphrey was steady throughout the night. He had ten of his 18 points in the second half, and was second on the team with five rebounds, as Baines pulled six. With Tyler Wilkerson out for the year with a broken jaw, the Herd rotated Baines, Humphrey, Octavius Spann and even freshman Kore White to battle Louisme, who had 21 points for Tulane underneath. Marshall only finished four rebounds behind the Wave after trailing by eight mid-way through the second half. Tulane did out-score MU in the paint, 52-34, as Asim McQueen added 15 points and six rebounds for TU.
"We tried different combinations, we're looking for combinations because defensively, we haven't been very good," said Jones. The Herd is last in C-USA in field goal and three-point defense, allowing .477 on field goals and .421 on threes before Tulane hit 32-of-53, 60.4 percent from the floor and 4-of-8 from three, although just 1-of-4 in the second half and overtime.
"We're getting better," said Jones of the defense led by one senior (Humphrey), four juniors (Merthie, Lutz and Spann and Adam Williams), a sophomore (Baines) and four freshmen (Johnson, Pitts, White and Dago Pena). "We practiced twice, including 6 a.m. on Thursday, and twice on Friday, including an early morning workout again. The kids came in here and showed great toughness." Jones added he was especially proud of the effort on defense by Adam Williams, who played 22 minutes (all in the second half) and that is three minutes short of an career-best. He added four points, best this season, and a rebound.
"Adam does what he does every day in practice. He plays hard and gives you all he has and he is one of the unsung heroes of this game," Jones said. Williams entered the game with a black eye picked up in one of those four practices in the last two days. Earlier this year, he had another black eye and has had two front teeth replaced due to hard hits in practice, making the starters work hard on offense.
Marshall shot well after the first half. The Herd hit 53.6 percent from the floor, 30-of-56, and hit 40 percent from three by knocking down 8-of-20, including 7-for-10 in the second half. The Herd forced 19 turnovers by the Green Wave and picked up eight steals in the contest to go with four blocks, two by Humphrey who also had a steal and four assists.
Chris Lutz received a big hug from teammate Markel Humphrey as the final horn sounded in The Herd's overtime win against Tulane. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The Herd will step out of conference, and out of NCAA play, on Tuesday when the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) comes to town. The Red Storm was 16-9 before Saturday night's game with American Midwest Conference member Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The AMC, an NAIA conference, includes Portsmouth, Ohio's Shawnee State, plus Malone, Walsh, Ohio Dominican, Cedarville, Point Park, Wilberforce, Roberts Wesleyan, Daemen, Northwestern Ohio. Houghton and Notre Dame College. Marshall beat Rio 87-51 in December of 2007.