Western Michigan's vaunted defense -the Broncos came into the game ranked as the #1 scoring defense in the country, limiting opponents to just 54 points per game- held solid for the first 10 minutes of the game, but fell silent thereafter.
"It's a 40 minute game, and you're going to have your ups and downs," Marshall coach Greg White said. "I want to credit my defense. We shut them down. Tonight, we dominated the boards. We dominated the hustle stats."
WMU shot out to a commanding 21-8 lead after capitalizing on four early steals.Marshall rallied over the following seven minutes, courtesy of three-pointers by Ron Blackshear, Monty Wright, and Ronny Dawn, to pull within one at 28-27. The 19-7 run was sparked by such defensive treats as a Mark Patton steal and an A.W. Hamilton block, a rarity for the point guard.
Marvin Black hauls in a loose pass in front of WMU's Ben Reed.
Blackshear's two free throws with :14 left in the half cut WMU's lead to only three, 32-29.
With Marvin Black hitting the boards like a madman in the second half (Black finished with 16 rebounds, 12 of them defensive), Marshall finally took their first lead in the game with 15:27 remaining when Monty Wright drained a pair of free throws.
"Our main concern was shutting them down," Marvin Black said after the game. "They're the number one defensive team in the country, so let's give them a dose of their own medicine."
WMU would hold a slim lead over the next 8:05, when Blackshear's layup with 7:22 remaining gave Marshall the lead for good at 49-47. Blackshear hit 14-of-17 free throws en route to a game-high 24 points.
"We weren't as sharp, we weren't as ready, defensively, in the second half as we were in the first half," WMU coach Robert McCullum said afterward.
Ardo Armpalu (12 points) and Monty Wright (13 points) were the only other Marshall players in double figures. The Herd shot 41% from the field (19-of-46) while holding Western Michigan to only 36.4% (20-of-55). Marshall also outrebounded the Broncos 43 to 31.
With the win, Marshall improves to 6-3 overall, 2-0 in the MAC. Western Michigan falls to 8-3 overall and 0-2 in the MAC with the loss. The Herd plays next on Wednesday, January 8 at Buffalo.