The much-maligned Marshall defense led the charge for the Herd Thursday night and knocked off the UAB Blazers 74-59 in front of 5,637 fans at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, West Virginia.
Marshall (15-11, 8-5) did not have its best shooting performance, but a strong defensive performance picked up the slack and the Herd pulled away from the Blazers (15-12, 8-6) in the second half after being tied up at halftime.
The Herd started fast and immediately took a 5-0 lead just a minute into the game, but UAB responded and held an 8-7 lead with 15:48 remaining in the first half.
After guard C.J. Burks connected on a spectacular 3-pointer as the shot clock expired that was set up by forward Ajdin Penava saving the ball from going out of bounds, Marshall led it 18-11 with 13:22 remaining in the first half.
The Herd held a 24-16 lead with after forward Terrence Thompson connected on a layup at the 10:01 mark of the first half, but the Blazers rallied and took a 30-28 lead with 4:48 remaining in the first half.
Both teams were neck and neck throughout the remainder of the first half and the game was tied up at 34 at halftime. Marshall began to take slight control of the game in the early stages of the second half.
After point guard Jon Elmore connected on an old-fashioned 3-point play, the Herd led it 47-42 with 11:52 remaining in the second half. Elmore continued to make an impact for Marshall and after he connected on a 3-pointer at the 11:22 mark of the second half, the Herd’s lead stood at 51-42.
But UAB responded quickly and immediately cut the Marshall lead down to 51-48 not even one minute after that Elmore 3-pointer. The Herd finally began to put the game away over the next few minutes and after forward Ryan Taylor connected on a put back slam dunk, Marshall opened up a double-digit lead of 61-51 with 6:04 remaining in the second half.
Marshall played with a double-digit lead throughout the remainder of the game and the Blazers were unable to get back in the game. The Herd closed out the final 1:31 with four free throws and walked away with a hard-fought 74-59 victory over UAB.
Elmore led Marshall with 25 points, five assists and three rebounds on the night. Taylor finished with 17 points and seven rebounds as well for the Herd after a quiet first half.
Penava racked up his first career double-double and played arguably his best game as a member of Marshall with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks off the bench.
Burks added nine points and four rebounds off the bench for the Herd, guard Stevie Browning chipped in six points in limited action and Thompson finished with four points and five rebounds. Guard Dirk Williams led UAB with 23 points and six rebounds.
While Marshall shot just 40 percent from the field for the game and 25.9 percent from behind the arc, its defense held the Blazers to just 37.9 percent shooting from the field and allowed a season-best 59 points to the opposition.
The Herd’s win broke an eight-game losing streak to UAB and was the first win against the Blazers since a January 11, 2012 road win. It was also Marshall’s first home win against UAB since January 19, 2008.
Marshall now sits in a tie for third place in C-USA and welcomes the first-place Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders to the Henderson Center Saturday night in a huge game with C-USA implications. UAB returns to action Sunday at Western Kentucky.