Determined Herd downs Houston
HUNTINGTON -- Markel Humphrey rested his injured right foot Monday and Tuesday while the Marshall University men's basketball team practiced.
But, both days while leaving the gym Humphrey said he wouldn't miss any game time.
Humphey not only played Wednesday night, he was on the Cam Henderson Center court for 38 of the 40 minutes and matched his career high with 25 points as the Thundering Herd knocked off Houston, 88-83. In the process the senior forward joined Russell Lee and J.R. VanHoose as the only players in school history with career totals of more than 1,300 points, 600 rebounds and 100 assists.
"It was hurting when I was running, but I didn't worry about it," Humphrey said.
Houston head coach Tom Penders reacted with surprise when he learned Humphrey was playing with an injury.
"He was banged up?" Penders said. "He sure didn't play like it."
Marshall forward Tirrell Baines broke out of a slump with 21 points in a rousing victory against a team tied for second place in Conference USA.
The home crowd of 3,813 included Marshall recruit Hassan Whiteside, a 6-foot-11 prep school center from The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C. Tagging along on a recruiting visit was Patterson School prospect DeAndre Kane, a 6-4 guard.
Houston guard Aubrey Coleman fired in 38 points, but the Cougars (16-8, 7-4) didn't hold a second-half lead.
One of the telling statistics for Marshall was the "points in the paint" category for team scoring from within the free throw lane where the tall players roam.
Humphrey and Baines, both standing 6-6, were the tallest Herd players on the court for most of the night against taller Houston.
Yet, Marshall had 52 points in the paint. Houston had 38 with 6-11 Marcus Cousin and 6-8 Qa'rraan Calhoun scoring 14 and 10 respectively.
Marshall also battled Houston to a 30-30 stalemate in rebounds.
And, Herd guard Chris Lutz was the perfect decoy, although he made only one of 10 shots. Lutz, who averaged 28 points in the previous three games, attracted a lot of defensive attention and opened some things up inside for the Marshall "big" men.
"Our kids played with great heart," Marshall head coach Donnie Jones said. "Markel Humphrey probably being the first one. Today he was limping around at shoot around and I got the typical Markel respons, 'Coach. ... I'll be all right.'
"Tirrell Baines is probably the second one. We finally got him to come out and play like he is capable of playing."
Marshall (12-14, 4-7) also had double-figure scoring from freshman guards Shaq Johnson (16) and Damier Pitts (11).
Coleman had 20 points at halftime when Houston led by four. The lead grew to eight early in the second period.
Marshall chipped away at the deficit until Johnson's layup put the Herd within 64-63 with 10:49 left in the contest.
Humphrey's steal and basket gave Marshall an 82-81 lead with 1:49 remaining, but Houston regained the edge on a pair of free throws by Marcus Cousin with 1:27 to go.
Johnson went up in a crowd of players to tip in a miss by Baines that gave Marshall the lead again, 84-83, with 1:01 left.
Pitts and Humphrey finished it off with four consecutive free throws in the final 21 seconds.
"This was a big win for the Herd," Humphrey said. "We've been playing well, but lost a lot of close ones."
Marshall had one of its best shooting performances of the season at 58.5 percent. Jones said it probably was the Herd's best overall offensive game.
Penders didn't argue with that.
"We give up 39 percent of 40 percent from floor," he said. "That doesn't happen to us. They were pretty efficient."
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