Senior Night Heroics Lead Herd Past Mean Green in Thriller

By Trace Johnson

Late-game heroics were needed Saturday night for the Marshall Thundering Herd to clinch a thrilling 106-104 victory over the North Texas Mean Green in front of 6,017 fans at the Cam Henderson Center on senior night in the regular season finale.

Marshall (17-14, 10-8) fell behind by eight at halftime and trailed by five with just over one minute remaining in the game, but a 7-0 scoring run led by senior forward Ryan Taylor helped the Herd finally get over the hump and North Texas (8-22, 2-16) was unable to tie the game in the closing moments.

The Mean Green jumped out on the Herd quickly and opened up a 9-2 lead with 17:06 remaining in the first half.  But Marshall responded and after point guard Jon Elmore connected on a 3-pointer, the Herd took its first lead of the game at 15-13 at the 14:40 mark of the first half.

That 3-pointer put Elmore over 1,000 career points in his young Marshall career.  The Herd’s lead stood at 20-16 with 12:21 remaining in the first half, but North Texas answered with a run.

The Mean Green went on an 18-6 scoring run to take the lead back at 34-26 with 8:26 to go in the first half.  North Texas increased its lead to double-digits as the first half winded down before taking a 53-45 lead at halftime behind 62.9 percent shooting from the field in the half.

North Texas maintained its advantage into the early stages of the second half until a Marshall run made things interesting.  And forward Terrence Thompson connected on one free throw for the Herd at the 13:21 mark of the second half that tied the game at 69.

Marshall guard Aleksa Nikolic connected on a layup with 8:24 remaining in the second half that gave the Herd its first lead of the second half at 85-83.

Marshall maintained a slim lead over the next several minutes and after an old-fashioned 3-point play by guard C.J. Burks, the Herd’s lead stood at 99-94 with 2:55 to go in the second half.

But the Mean Green immediately answered and after a 10-0 scoring run in just over one minute, North Texas held a 104-99 lead with 1:26 remaining in the game.

Marshall rallied, however, and after Taylor connected on two free throws along with a Nikolic layup, the North Texas lead was down to 104-103 with 25 seconds to go.

Following a Mean Green turnover on its ensuing possession, the Herd got the ball back and took the lead back after Taylor connected on a layup in traffic with just 7 seconds remaining that put Marshall in front 105-104.

The turnovers weren’t done for North Texas and on the ensuing possession, the Mean Green was forced out of bounds thanks to tight defense by Burks and the Herd got the ball back.

Taylor hit one free throw with 4 seconds remaining to put Marshall up by two and North Texas was unable to tie the game after racing down the court with little time remaining, lifting the Herd to a 106-104 victory.

Taylor led Marshall with 29 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks on senior night while also earning his 39th career double-double.  Elmore finished with 19 points, six assists and three rebounds as well for the Herd.

Guard Stevie Browning had a successful senior night as well, adding 14 points, six rebounds and five assists and senior guard Austin Loop chipped in 12 points and six rebounds on four made 3-pointers.

Thompson finished with 12 points and five rebounds as well for Marshall.  The Herd’s bench contributed on the night, led by forward Ajdin Penava’s eight points.

Burks also added six points and five assists off the bench for Marshall while Nikolic chipped in six points and five assists as well as providing great energy.  Guard A.J. Lawson led North Texas with 26 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Marshall’s three seniors went out in style in their final regular season game at the Henderson Center and led the Herd to a crucial win to close out the regular season.

The win clinched Marshall’s most regular season wins since the 2011-12 season and also marked the first time the program has ever won double-digit regular season C-USA games in back-to-back seasons.

The Herd will be the 6th seed in the C-USA Tournament and will play the 11th-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls in a first round matchup Wednesday night at 9 p.m. EST.