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Herd stymies Tigers

MU hoops
Dec. 20, 2012 @ 12:37 AM

HUNTINGTON -- All week long, Marshall players heard about how stout of a defense that Savannah State was bringing to the Cam Henderson Center on Wednesday night.

It turns out, the Herd proved it's no slouch on the defensive end, either.

Marshall kept Savannah State without a field goal over a six-minute span late and finished the Tigers off at the foul line in a 64-48 win in front of 5,316 fans at the Cam Henderson Center.

"That was as consistent a 40 minutes of defense that we've played all season, in my opinion -- two halves," Marshall coach Tom Herrion said. "We did a good job bottling them up."

Defensively, Marshall forced 16 turnovers in the contest and did not allow a single 3-point field goal to the Tigers.

It was the first time since Dec. 29, 1991 that Marshall had not allowed an opponent a 3-point field goal in an entire contest -- that coming in a 78-64 loss to Penn State at the Palm Beach Classic.

"That's a credit to our defense, too," Marshall point guard Chris Martin said. "We went over the scouting report and they had some 3-point shooters in the scouting report. We played good defense and didn't let them get any open threes."

That defense shined through in the game's most critical point to secure the victory.

Marshall (7-5) led just 43-39 following a dunk by Savannah State's Arnold Louis with 8:28 left. However, the Tigers' next field goal came on a jumper by Preston Blackman with just 2:00 remaining.

By that point, the Herd had stretched the lead to 16, which matched its largest advantage of the game.

Possibly the most impressive aspect of the stretch was that Marshall did much of its damage at the foul line -- an area the Herd has struggled -- to increase the lead.

Savannah State seemed almost content to gamble at steals and put the Herd on the line once caught in odd-man situations.

The Herd had just four field goals in the final 14:47, but after starting just 2-of-8 from the line, Marshall connected on 13 of its final 15 to solidify the win.

"We made big free throws down the stretch to stretch it out," Herrion said.

Following Louis' dunk, Marshall went on an elongated 11-1 run over the 6:28 stretch which saw both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket.

Finally, D.D. Scarver got the team on track, catching an outlet pass and finishing in transition for a layup that broke a three-minute scoreless streak for both teams.

Just 1:40 later, he buried a 3-pointer to push the team's lead to 12 before Elijah Pittman capped the run with a circus shot in the lane.

Scarver finished with 18 points to lead the Herd, but it was the play of Dennis Tinnon that excited Herrion following the game.

Coming off a pair of rough offensive outings, Tinnon broke out against Savannah State. He finished with 14 points and six rebounds while hitting his first six shots from the field.

Given the full-court pressure defense by the Tigers, Tinnon was also forced to bring the ball up the court for the Herd at times.

"Tonight, I thought he played," Herrion said. "He made plays that were basketball plays. They weren't set plays, not set plays. It was reactionary. He wasn't tentative. He was aggressive."

Herrion credited his bench for getting the team back into the contest after a slow start forced the team to play from a deficit.

Savannah State jumped out to a 14-6 lead after Marshall turnovers turned into easy baskets early.

With the crowd getting a bit restless, the Herd turned up the intensity and got back into the contest quickly.

Marshall went on a 19-4 run over the next six minutes with Scarver providing the exclamation point on the run with a pair of 3-pointers in a 30-seconds span.

Both shots came off assists from Tinnon -- the first off a hustle play in which he corralled an offensive rebound from a missed free throw and fired out to Scarver.

The second came as Tinnon brought the ball up the floor and was double-teamed. He kicked to Scarver who caught in rhythm and buried to pushed the lead to seven -- the Herd's largest of the first half.

"We made two great kickouts to him and found him," Herrion said. "We want him to shoot open shots. He's a deadly catch-and-shoot guy."

Rashad Hassan finished with 11 points for Savannah State (5-7) while Khiry White added 10.

Pittman finished with 10 for the Herd, who returns to action at 4 p.m. on Saturday when they take on Kentucky at Rupp Arena in a nationally-televised game on ESPN2.

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