Herd relieved to break streak
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall's Thundering Herd was good for the full 40 minutes Wednesday in a men's basketball victory at UCF.
Marshall began the game playing well, withstood a slight lapse in the second half and finished strong in an 82-70 win that completed a season sweep of the Knights.
"It felt good," freshman guard Tamron Manning said before practice Thursday. "The trip back wasn't bad either."
As good as it was, Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said one win won't define the season.
Marshall, 12-15 overall, is still eighth in the Conference USA standings at 5-7 with four games to play.
UAB (12-14, 4-7 C-USA) visits Marshall for a 7 p.m., Saturday, game in Cam Henderson Center. Then Marshall has a week before playing March 2 at Houston. A March 5 home game against Southern Miss and a March 9 game at East Carolina end the regular season.
The top five teams with the best conference records will receive first-round byes for the C-USA tournament March 13-16 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
Marshall won for the first time this season on an opponent's court. Herrion said there was a feeling of relief in the locker room. It took too long to win a road game, he said, but the players haven't buckled and reaped the benefits Wednesday night.
"We played good basketball. An outstanding performance," Herrion said. "We made shots early and we were energized. And, we got back to being a physical team. Bodies were flying around."
UCF fell to a 17-9 season record and is 7-5 in its final C-USA season before joining the Big East Conference. The Knights are not eligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.
Marshall took the lead for good at 11-10 on Herd guard D. D. Scarver's 3-point shot at 15:24 of the first half and used a pair of 7-0 runs to pull away at halftime, 48-34.
Manning's 3-pointer stretched the lead to 71-49 with 9:17 remaining.
"It's just growing confidence," said Manning, who has only one other 3-point basket this season.
A lull followed, as Marshall went more than three minutes without scoring, and UCF reduced its deficit to 73-65 with 4:23 to go.
Marshall made seven of 10 free throw attempts in the final 4:16.
"Our management down the stretch was outstanding," Herrion said. "Even when they made their run there was never a sense of panic."
Forward Elijah Pittman had 20 points, five rebounds and a season-best five assists. All-CUSA guard Dre Kane scored 19 with five rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Scarver tossed in 20 points.
Dennis Tinnon wasn't in the starting lineup at forward because of a coach's decision and came in to provide 14 points with 15 rebounds. Rob Goff got the start and tossed in four points, grabbed four rebounds, made two steals and blocked a shot.
Center Nigel Spikes contributed five points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Marshall posted its best field goal percentage of the season at 54.2, made 12 of 18 free throws and outrebounded UCF, 42-32.
"People took good shots and made good shots," said Kane, who made seven of 10 field goal attempts.
The Herd won despite committing 21 turnovers.
Isaiah Sykes led UCF with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Calvin Newell and Keith Clanton added 16 and 10 points respectively.
Marshall was back at work Thursday preparing for UAB, which won the first meeting of the season, 75-61, on Feb. 9 in Birmingham, Ala.
The Blazers have been idle since Saturday when they beat Rice, 80-57.