Big men muscle Marshall to win over UCF
HUNTINGTON -- Nigel Spikes, Rob Goff and Yous Mbao all played effective minutes at the "five" position Saturday for Marshall University.
The Thundering Herd big men standing 6-foot-10, 6-9 and 7-2, respectively, combined for 17 points, seven rebounds and 12 blocked shots in a 75-71 men's basketball victory over the UCF Knights in Cam Henderson Center with Spikes doing most of the damage.
Spikes blocked nine shots, scored 11 points and pulled four rebounds.
Goff had six points and three rebounds, all in the first half. Mbao was on the court for only four minutes in the first half and rejected three shots.
"We got great production out of the five (position), maybe the best production we've gotten since I've been here collectively," said third-year Marshall head coach Tom Herrion. "I know everybody wants to talk about Nigel, and deservedly so, but Goff was phenomenal in the first half and Yous was really good in the stretch he came in."
Marshall stopped a losing streak at three games and takes a 10-12 season record and 3-4 mark in Conference USA on the road for its next two contests. Marshall plays an 8 p.m., Wednesday, game at Tulane and stays out for a 3 p.m., Saturday, game at UAB.
UTEP (12-8, 5-2) won at home Saturday night against Tulane (14-8, 2-5), 62-50. Southern Miss (18-4, 7-0) won at UAB (9-13, 1-6), 79-75.
Spikes blocked the first shot UCF attempted to get Marshall off and running.
His nine blocks ranks tied for fourth in Marshall records with Hassan Whiteside, Latece Williams and Omar Roland.
Marshall's 14 total blocks tied the school record for a game against an NCAA Division I opponent set against UCF on Feb. 27, 2010. The Herd record was 17 against Brescia on Dec. 16, 2009.
UCF (15-6, 5-2) hit snowy Huntington on Saturday with a four-game win streak.
"We're tired of losing," Spikes said. "It's wearing down on us, and we're not a losing team like that. That's not our mentality, so we really stepped it up. These guys really played big today, everybody played big -- Rob [Goff], big Yous, DeVince (Boykins), everybody."
Marshall did more than just block shots. Things such as reaching a season high in shooting percentage at 51.9 percent and cranking it up defensively to hold UCF to one of its lowest percentages (41.3).
The Knights handled the Herd on the backboards, 41 rebounds to 29. Spikes said the team found other ways to get the win.
Forward Elijah Pittman led Marshall with 20 points followed by wing guard D.D. Scarver with 16, forward Dennis Tinnon with 13 and Spikes with his first game in double figures since he netted 10 in a Dec. 1 game against UNC-Wilmington.
"It was a team effort," said Marshall all-conference guard Dre Kane whose six points left him out of double figures for only the fifth time this season. "It wasn't a one-man show."
Kane also had 12 assists, four rebounds and two steals.
UCF did things defensively to take Kane out of the offense, but other Marshall players stepped in. Spikes hurt the Knights most.
Knights head coach Donnie Jones, who recruited Spikes and Kane when he coached the Herd from 2008-10, said it came down to not making defensive stops.
"You gamble and try to make other people do different things and Nigel Spikes was they guy they went to," Jones said. "He made a couple big plays around the rim. They did the things they needed to win the game.
"Sometimes you play the percentages and you don't win the game."
C-USA preseason player of the year Keith Clanton, a 6-9 senior, scored 24 to lead his team while guard Calvin Newell pitched in 19 and guard Isaiah Sykes added 10. Clanton and Sykes form the best one-two scoring punch in the league with averages of 16.2 and 15.9 respectively.
Herrion praised the defensive performance.
"I said it this week, you have to pick your poison with them," the Herd coach said. "Clanton had a big day, but I thought we did a good job on those complimentary players. I thought we made Sykes really work."
Boykins' assignment for the eight minutes he played in the second half was guarding Sykes.
The game was tied 11 times and had 15 lead changes before Pittman's 3-point basket put Marshall ahead for good, 63-60, with 3:51 left to play.
"We were where we wanted to be 60-60 and Pittman hit a big three," Jones said. "Give Marshall credit."
Spikes scored on two layups around a Scarver foul shot to make it 68-64 with 1:16 remaining.
Newell scored the final seven points for the Knights while the Herd was making seven of 12 free throws in the final 49 seconds.