Herd's Ezeigbo celebrates birthday in style with win
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Marshall University forward Chukwuka Ezeigbo had more than just a happy 20th birthday Saturday afternoon.
Ezeigbo had 17 points while adding six rebounds to lead the Thundering Herd women's basketball team to a 70-66 win over Southern Illinois at SIU Arena.
"A win is a win is a win is a win. They are hard to get them on the road," Marshall coach Matt Daniel said. "Chika on her birthday has a career-high so I'm happy for her."
It wasn't only Ezeigbo's presence, however.
Fellow post player Veronica Ruiz also notched 17 points while adding eight rebounds in the Herd's first road win of the season.
Marshall dominated the game in the lane, outrebounding Southern Illinois 44-30 while also grabbing 20 offensive rebounds.
The Herd turned those offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points while netting 34 points in the paint.
"We thought we could take advantage of some things inside and as the game grew, it became more evident to us," Daniel said.
Marshall led 64-52 following a jumper by Norrisha Victrum, but the Salukis used missed free throws and late turnovers to cut the deficit to four points with nine seconds left.
Southern Illinois had a chance to cut the lead further, but the Salukis' final turnover -- their 16th -- capped the contest.
Marshall (5-4) trailed only once at 3-2 three minutes into the game.
The Herd used a 17-3 run over a six-minute stretch to lead 30-15 with six minutes left in the first half.
However, the Salukis answered back with a 13-1 run of their own to pull within three before the Herd ended the half with four straight points and a 35-28 lead at the break.
Rishonda Napier led Southern Illinois (1-7) with 20 points. Dyana Pierre had 14 points and 16 rebounds -- a figure that was over half of her team's rebounds in the game.
Marshall's defense did a good job of handling Salukis' leader Cartaesha Macklin until late. Macklin ended the game with 15 points -- many of which came in the final run to end the contest.
The Herd now has a few days off for finals before hosting rival Ohio in a 2 p.m. contest Saturday at Cam Henderson Center.