Photo by Dave West
The Marshall Thundering Herd offense helped build up a big first half lead over Florida Atlantic Wednesday night and the Herd coasted the rest of the way to secure an 89-74 win over the Owls in the first round of the C-USA Tournament in front of 6,410 fans at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
Marshall (18-14) turned a close game in the opening stages of the first half into a 23-point halftime lead and FAU (10-20) was unable to get back in the game in the second half, lifting the Herd to the quarterfinals of the C-USA Tournament.
Both teams were neck and neck in the opening minutes of the game and Marshal held a slim 10-9 lead with 14:42 remaining in the first half. But the Herd quickly began to take control from that point.
Behind 11 quick points by guard Stevie Browning, Marshall went on a 14-2 scoring run to open up a 24-11 lead at the 11:34 mark of the first half.
The Herd continued to build on its lead as the first half progressed and after guard Austin Loop connected on a pair of free throws, Marshall’s lead stood at 34-19 with 6:53 remaining in the first half.
Loop and Browning kept the momentum going for the Herd and after each connected on a 3-pointer in consecutive possessions, the lead grew to an imposing 48-23 advantage with 2:48 to go in the first half.
Marshall closed out the first half with a 52-29 lead at halftime. The Herd maintained its big lead out of halftime and after point guard Jon Elmore connected on an old-fashioned 3-point play, Marshall held a 57-35 lead with 15:48 remaining in the second half.
The lead continued to grow from there and after guard C.J. Burks split a pair of free throws at the 9:54 mark of the second half, the Herd’s lead was up to a game-high 26 points at 74-48.
But FAU did not go down without a fight and after a 12-0 scoring run in barely over two minutes, the Marshall lead was down to 74-60 with 7:36 to go in the second half.
The Herd regrouped from there and quickly reestablished itself. After Burks connected on a 3-pointer with 4:32 remaining in the second half, the lead was back up to an insurmountable 86-64. Marshall’s bench closed out the final two minutes plus and the Herd secured an 89-74 victory over the Owls to advance in the C-USA Tournament.
Browning led Marshall with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists including 5-for-10 shooting from 3-point territory. Elmore finished with 14 points, five assists and three rebounds for the Herd despite a slow shooting night.
Burks had a big game off the bench for Marshall, adding 14 points, five assists and four rebounds. Forward Ryan Taylor also chipped in 11 points and five rebounds for the Herd while Loop chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.
Forward Terrence Thompson finished with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds as well for Marshall while forward Ajdin Penava added eight points and eight rebounds off the bench.
Guard Justin Massey led FAU with 19 points off the bench. With the win, Marshall advances to the quarterfinals of the C-USA Tournament where it awaits the 3rd-seeded Old Dominion Monarchs coming off a first round bye.
The Herd split the regular season series with the Monarchs where both teams won on their homecourt. Marshall and ODU tip off in quarterfinal action Thursday at 9 p.m. EST on the American Sports Network.