Herd coach Donnie Jones was nearly overwhelmed with emotion at the magnificent effort of his core of seven players. "I'm speechless, I'm so proud of these kids. They gave us everything they had. The game spoke for itself. Our kids played hard. I don't know where to begin; there are so many heroes tonight," said Jones.
"Obviously, Markel Humphrey is the first one. Here is a kid who couldn't practice Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. Today, he was limping at shoot-around…When I went to talk to him, I got the typical Markel response: ‘Coach, I'll be alright'." Tirrell Baines is the second one. We finally got him to come out and play like he is capable of playing and he gives us great minutes off the bench."
Markel Humphrey couldn't even practice earlier in the week. However, the senior scored 25 points to lead Marshall past Houston, including this basket over UH's Qa'rran Calhoun in the first half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Octavius Spann did not dress for the contest due to a violation of unspecified team rules, so a short bench was reduced to eight active players for the Houston game by Herd head coach Donnie Jones. With freshman forward Kore White only playing only six minutes in the first half, and going 0-for-1, the "Magnificent Seven" stood tall all night against a Cougar team that was 16-7 coming into the game, tied for second at 7-3 in Conference USA play and was coming into Huntington with four straight league wins and rated a 5.5 favorite over the Herd (12-14, 4-7 in C-USA).
Humphrey, a senior, led the charge for the fourth-straight game by tying his career-high of 25 points against Houston (16-8, 7-4 in C-USA). He has now scored 25 points, 18 points (UTEP), 23 points (Rio Grande) and 18 points (Tulane) in his last four games, an average of 18.5 points per game over the stretch, with MU winning three of four in his run. Humphrey had seven rebounds, a block and a steal while shooting 9-of-12 from the field, 1-of-1 from three and 6-of-8 at the line.
Adam Williams provided a great spark for The Herd, scoring 8 points off the bench. Here he goes up over UH's Marcus Cousin in the second half. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
His biggest free throws was a two-for-two effort with nine seconds left to match the Herd's biggest lead of five points in the win. However, that five-point lead had been 20-15 with 11:40 to go in the first half, and Houston answered with a 10-2 run to take a lead and be up at the half by four, 46-42.
At the half, the much smaller Herd team was tied with Houston as both teams had 24 points in the paint. "I think the misconception with our team is that we have no one who can score in the paint," said Jones. "Chris Lutz creates a lot of confusion, pulling the defense out to him. Markel can score on anyone one-on-one. Adam Williams, he does whatever we ask him to do." Williams had eight points and two rebounds, an assist and a steal in 17 minutes."
Marshall would trail by as much as eight early in the second half, on a number of occasions, before the Herd began to chip away. Sophomore Tirrell Baines scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half, as well as grabbing all six of his rebounds including a team-best three on the offensive glass and two steals.
Baines had scored in double figures only once since the Tennessee Tech game back on Dec. 28, when he had ten points in the home loss to Tulsa. He had scored 16 points total in the last three games with Tulane, Rio Grande and UTEP. Freshman Shaquille Johnson had eight of his 16 points in the latter half, and all seven of the rebounds he grabbed to tie Humphrey in that category.
MU cut the Houston lead to one, 64-63, with 10:49 to play on Johnson lay-up after corralling a Aubrey Coleman miss. On the rebound on the UH end, Houston point guard Zamal Nixon was injured and did not return to the game. In the last five games, UH's sophomore guard was averaging nearly ten points and shooting 49 percent, but ended this game with only four points.
Tirrell Baines came alive in the second half against Houston, scoring 20 of his 21 points. UH's Qa'rraan Calhoun tried to block Baines' shot, but was unsuccessful. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
The Herd would cut the Cougars' lead to one point on six occasions before Marshall took its first lead of the second half with a steal and lay-up by Humphrey to make the score 82-81 with 1:48 to play. A Damier Pitts foul on 6-foot-11 Marcus Cousin allowed Houston to retake the lead on two free throws, 83-82, with 1:27 left.
Marshall brought the ball up the court and fed it to Baines inside, who missed the shot. But Johnson got the rebound and laid it in to put the Herd back up, 84-83. Desmond Wade of Houston missed a three and Pitts grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled by Kelvin Lewis.
The freshman had not scored in the second half after nine points early, but is shooting around 95 percent from the line in late-game situations. He nailed two free throws, finishing with 11 points, and MU led by three, 86-83.
Houston hurried the ball up the court, nearly losing the handle once and then trying a long pass across the court. Baines intercepted the ball for the 11th turnover by a Houston team in the top three in the nation (with Notre Dame and Southern Miss) averaging less than ten giveaways a game.
Baines fed the ball to Humphrey, who was fouled and would hit two more free throws with nine seconds left for a five-point lead. Coleman brought the ball upcourt, attempted a long three and a offensive rebound and basket by Qa'rraan Calhoun was not allowed and the Herd had the 88-83 win.
Coleman was a one-man scoring machine for UH. He scored 38 points, making 16-of-30 shots, 1-for-2 from three and 5-of-7 at the line. Cousin had 14 points and four rebounds while Calhoun scored ten points with eight rebounds. Marshall shut down Lewis, who was averaging 19 points a game but scored only seven tonight.
A church-night crowd of 3,813 was perhaps more vocal than any crowd this season, rising to its feet over and over down the stretch of the game. "Absolutely incredible," said Jones of the crowd. "I still think this place is the best place, no question in the conference and one of the best home crowds in the country. We haven't got it to the level we want to, but we will and we appreciate these fans turning out, and I know we played our hearts out for them."
The Cougars took ten more shots than the Herd, 63-to-53, but both teams made 31 field goals. MU was 3-of-13 from three (23 percent) but Houston made just 2-of-5 (40 percent) from the arc, while the Herd was 23-of-32 from the line (72 percent) and UH made 19-of-26 at the stripe (73 percent).
Marshall will head to New Orleans, La. on Friday, to meet Tulane on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. eastern. The Green Wave fell to the Herd in overtime in Huntington, 89-86, back on Feb. 7. Tulane, now 4-8 in league play, gave UAB all the Blazers wanted Wednesday night in a close loss at Fogelman Arena on the TU campus. Marshall is two-games under .500, three in league play, and Jones knows this is a good time for his squad to put together a run headed into the league tournament, facing East Carolina next Wednesday (5-8 in league, 13-13 overall), a team MU beat in Huntington 72-64 back in January.
"We got a chance to do that," said Jones of getting on a roll this time of year. "We need to win a road game in conference play. We got this one tonight, we would have liked to got either UAB or Tulsa, and it would have been easy to tuck our heads and quit, or come up short, and we are looking to getting back to working hard. That shows me they are still working to get better, at practice."
NOTES: By passing 1,300 points tonight, along with over 600 career rebounds and 100 career assists, Humphrey became only the third Herd player to accomplish that feat. The others are J.R. VanHoose and Russell Lee, two members of the Marshall Hall of Fame...Jones sent out best wishes to his father in the post-game show, as he has been under the weather and was not able to come in from Point Pleasant, W.Va., 45 minutes away from Huntington, for the Houston game...Marshall had two members of The Patterson School in attendance tonight at the win. Hassan Whiteside, a 6-foot-11 center who signed with the Herd in the early signing period was at the game. His teammate, 6-foot-4 guard DeAndre Kane, was also visiting the Herd. Kane is being recruited by Seton Hall and, lately, his hometown school of No. 4-ranked Pitt has entered into the recruiting of Kane alongside of the Herd. Good game for those players to visit, though...Coleman of Houston was the player who stepped on the head of Arizona Wildcats player Chase Budinger during UA's win over UH, 96-90 in overtime, on Jan. 24 at Arizona. C-USA suspended Coleman for one game after he was called for a flagrant foul and ejected from the game. Coleman did issue an apology to Budinger, saying the step was an accident, although tape of the shot showed teammates high-fiving him and laughing as he came to the bench.