Herd downs East Carolina, 78-68
HUNTINGTON — Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame members Hal Greer and Jack Freeman had a discussion about their former team this week.
Freeman watched the Thundering Herd’s loss Wednesday at UCF and Greer said his former teammate told him, “They’re great team and can rebound and all that stuff, but they can’t shoot.”
Well, they definitely could shoot Saturday night.
With Greer, Freeman and many other Marshall men’s basketball alumni in the building Saturday night, Marshall’s shooting gunned down East Carolina, 78-68, before a Cam Henderson Center crowd of 6,447.
Marshall (15-10 season, 6-5 Conference USA) connected on a season-best 54 percent of its field goal attempts, made 50 percent of its 3-point shots in its second-best performance and had one of its best free throw efforts by making 14 of 18 for 77.8 percent.
All that by a team that was 11th on the 12-team C-USA field goal percentage list (42.5), 11th in 3-point percentage (30.7) and last in free throws (61.1).
“I thought we moved the ball tonight,” Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said. “We played inside-out. Our ball movement was really good. The guys played with confidence.”
Senior point guard Damier Pitts made nine of 17 shots and six of seven free throws in a 27-point game that was one shy of his career high. Another senior guard, Shaq Johnson was 4-for-6 on field goals and made all five of his free throws for 14 points.
Junior forward Rob Goff added 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
Marshall played without sophomore guard Dre Kane, its leading scorer with a 15.9 average, who attended his father’s funeral Saturday morning in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“Once again I want to offer our sincere sympathy and condolences to DeAndre and his family,” Herrion said.
Kane’s absence left an opening for some to step up and freshman guard Chris Martin was the one.
Martin had played for only 23 minutes all season. He entered the game when Pitts was called for his second foul at 14:23 of the first half. Martin’s first college 3-pointers accounted for Marshall’s next six points. Another 3-pointer in the second half gave him nine points in 22 minutes on the court.
Freshman forward Jamir Hanner also rang up is first Marshall 3-point shot in the first half when the Herd edged ahead, 36-35.
“They needed someone to score for Kane,” said ECU head coach Jeff Lebo.
East Carolina fell to 12-12 for the season and 3-8 in the conference. The Pirates also had a good shooting night at 53.5 percent, and it wasn’t enough.
Miguel Paul, the Pirates’ point guard had 19 points and 11 assists. Robert Sampson, a sophomore forward, also recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Sampson is the son of former University of Virginia star and former NBA All-Star player Ralph Sampson, who once came to Huntington for a summer league game.
ECU forward Darrius Morrow burned the Herd for a career-high 33 points in last season’s victory at Marshall, but was held in check with just 11.