Williams Rises To Blame It On Rio, 92-59

Head coaches Ken French of Rio Grande and Donnie Jones of Marshall had no idea who Marshall was going to play in the game at Huntington. Marshall had two players who left the team, plus Tyler Wilkerson is out for the year. Dago Pena is going to have surgery, and Tay Spann (back) and Shaq Johnson (ankle) were nursing injuries. Never fear, as The Herd won, 92-59, playing only eight players...

Adam Williams, who was averaging just 5.3 minutes in appearing in 17 of 23 games this season, picked the right night to have a career showing for the Herd (11-13, 3-6 in Conference USA). Williams smashed his points and rebounding mark with a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds, his first collegiate double double.

Adam Williams used a slashing-to-the-basket style to score 12 points and grab 14 rebounds in The Herd's 92-59 win over Rio Grande in Huntington Tuesday evening. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

His former bests were five points and four rebounds, while he also set records with a team game high 35 minutes played. His 5-for-8 shooting night topped his 2-for-4 for five points at Houston last season. The junior had the four rebounds at East Carolina last year. He even tied his career threes attempted mark with two.

"Words can't describe how good it feels. Every day you go to practice and work hard and finally it just came," Williams said, the only in-state player on the team from St. Albans, W.Va. "This is a win that we needed." Williams joined three other Marshall players in double figures. Senior Markel Humphrey (30 minutes) and junior Chris Lutz (31 minutes) led the way with 23 points each, while Daryl Merthie added ten points in 24 minutes playing time.

"We're (Lutz, Humphrey, Merthie and Williams) all upperclassmen. I know it's an old cliché, but it has a lot to do with it," said Williams.

"We've been around and know what it takes to win games and how to lose games; we know both sides. I think that our experience at the end of the day and leading this team is what's helping us turn around," said Williams.

Markel Humphrey threw down this fast-break dunk in the first half of Marshall's 92-59 win over Rio Grande. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

He is the son of Marshall Hall of Fame member Tex Williams, who played two seasons of All-Mid-American Conference basketball and baseball for the Herd in the 1960s before coaching at the high school, where he coached Adam with the St. Albans Red Dragons, college (University of Charleston) and pro ball (West Virginia Gunners).

Humphrey finished the game with seven rebounds and two steals, with no turnovers. He hit 10-of-16 shots. Lutz also had seven assists and six assists to go with his 9-of-12 shooting performance that included hitting 4-of-5 three-point shots. Lutz is 11-of-17 from three over his last two games after enduring a January stretch where he was just 2-of-19 over five games.

Marshall held a 46-29 lead at halftime, but the Red Storm gave the Herd fits in the first ten minutes of the game. Marshall trailed by eight points, 23-15, with 10:19 on the clock. Jones took an early time out to settle his team down. "The team knew the fans expected us to win this game by 20-30 points, against a very good Rio Grande team," said Jones. "I just wanted them to settle down and realize they didn't have to be up by 20 in the first ten minutes of the game. Just settle down, play defense and run our offense."

The Herd did just that, out-scoring Rio 31-6 in the rest of the half and forcing eight of the Storm's 12 first-half turnovers in the final ten minutes of the first half, leading 46-29 at the break. Marshall would end up forcing 19 turnovers by the Red Storm, and that was turned into 29 points for the Herd. Rio Grande scored only seven points on 12 turnovers by MU, and the Herd also had nine steals in the contest.

Tirrell Baines kept his eyes on this loose ball in the second half of Marshall's 92-59 win over Rio Grande in Huntington on Tuesday night. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

Marshall had a huge edge in fast-break points, as they scored 18 points to just three for the Red Storm. MU also out-scored Rio Grande in the paint, 48-34, despite the Red Storm starting two 6-foot-8 forwards, Will Norwell and Brandon Ivery.

Ivery was averaging 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, but finished with only three boards and scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half with some tough shots that went down. Norwell scored no points and had only three rebounds as Marshall won the battle of the boards, 41-to-33. Forward Brett Beucler was the leading rebounder for the Red Storm with six rebounds, and was the only other member of URG with double digit points, scoring 11.

"I think we're starting to get a little chemistry among ourselves," Jones said after the game, the second without leading rebounder and scorer Tyler Wilkerson, who is out for the year with a broken jaw that came against Ben Uzoh and Tulsa ten days ago.

"We just have to find a way, since we are obviously limited in some ways from a depth stand point. But as long as you have the right five out there, you have a chance to win on any given night." Jones was very pleased with the effort in the face of playing only eight players total, while Rio Grande countered with 13 players in the game.

Marshall freshman Damier Pitts scored nine points and Shaquille Johnson scored seven points. The duo also added six assists each off of the bench, tying Lutz for the team lead in assists as MU had 26 assists on 36 field goals. Pitts came off the bench and played 24 minutes while Johnson played 27 minutes, surprising since he was a game-time decision on playing at all with the ankle sprain.

"I didn't want to play him that much, but who else could we go to?" asked Jones after the game. Fellow freshman forward Kore White played eight minutes, the most since he played ten minutes against another NAIA member, WVU Tech in the opener, but White was 0-for-1 (missing a dunk) and 0-for-3 at the free throw line for no points and one rebound.

Freshman Dago Pena will have shoulder surgery for the shoulder he separated first back in November, and is expected to miss the rest of the year. However, the freshman said along press row he thought he could get back at least in time for the C-USA Tournament on March 11-14.

Marshall's defense limited Rio Grande to 41.9 percent shooting from the floor (26-of-62) and only 23 percent from three (3-of-13). MU held the Red Storm to 0-of-3 from three in the second half and just 14-of-35 from the floor in that same half (40 percent). Meanwhile, the Thundering Herd shot 57.1 percent from the floor (36-of-63) and was 7-of-20 from behind the three-point arc (35 percent).

Lutz was 4-of-5, Merthie 2-of-54 and Pitts 1-of-6 behind the arc. In the second half, Marshall hit 66.7 percent of its shots, 18-for-27, the best second half shooting of the season and second-best half overall (69.2 percent in first half at Southern Miss).

The Thundering Herd has now won two straight as it prepares to return to C-USA action, and will have an additional day off before making the long flight to El Paso, Texas on Friday. The Herd will play at UTEP on Saturday night at 9 p.m. (ET). The Miners meet UCF at El Paso on Wednesday, Feb. 11, before welcoming the Herd this weekend.

Back on Saturday, for the first time in UTEP's 22 games this season, an opponent held the lead wire-to-wire as Tulsa handed the Miners a 76-65 loss on Saturday in Oklahoma. The Miners tied their season low with a .302 field goal percentage, and had to hit three of their last four shots of the game to get to that mark. UTEP's top two scorers, senior Stefon Jackson and Randy Culpepper, were a combined 5-for-22 from the field against Tulsa.

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