Herd holds off Rice
HUNTINGTON — Dre Kane’s only basket Wednesday night was so big it could have counted for more than two points.
Kane recorded career lows for field goals and attempts in a 1-for-3 shooting performance, but the junior’s three-point play with 34 seconds to go was huge for Marshall University in a 71-70 men’s basketball defeat of Rice in Cam Henderson Center. The attendance was listed at 5,308.
D.D. Scarver’s equally important 3-point shot on a feed from Kane put Marshall ahead, 67-63, with 1:25 remaining in a tight contest that featured 11 ties and 21 lead changes and nobody getting more than a five-point advantage. Keith Washington of the Owls worked in the lane for a scoop shot that cut the margin to two with 1:04 left.
Rice, which played a zone defense for most of the game, went man-to-man and Kane attacked with a pass from Nigel Spikes and around a screen set by the Thundering Herd center.
Kane was fouled on a driving layup and made the free throw that gave Marshall a 70-65 cushion.
“That was the first time they ran man against us and Nigel gave me a good pass,” Kane said.
Marshall moved to 11-14 for the season and at 4-6 is tied for seventh place in Conference USA with Tulane and Houston. Rice (5-19, 1-9) fell deeper into last place.
The Herd ended a losing skid at two games with No. 22 Memphis (21-3, 10-0) coming to town for an 8 p.m., Saturday, contest. Memphis logged its 15th consecutive victory Wednesday at home in FedExForum against UCF, 93-71.
Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said Kane’s three-point conversion was on a play he likes to use against man-to-man defense, but wouldn’t have worked if Rice was still in the zone.
“Nigel did a great job with the screen, he is so good at that, and of course Kane finishing and making the free throw was big for us,” Herrion said.
Washington sank two free throws for the Owls and Eli Pittman made one for the Herd, leaving Marshall ahead, 71-67, with 21 seconds remaining.
Julian DeBose banked in a 3-point shot for Rice with one second left. Marshall put the ball in play against Rice pressure to Kane, who tossed it high in the air while time ran out.
Kane played for the full 40 minutes for the fourth consecutive game.
Marshall’s all-conference guard averaging 14.8 points per game finished with just five while also contributing 10 assists and four rebounds.
“(Other) guys were making shots,” Kane said. “I wanted to get everyone touches, get them easy points. When my shot comes, I’ll take it.”
He didn’t need to shoot Wednesday.
Forward Elijah Pittman scored 22, Scarver followed with 17, Dennis Tinnon added 11 and Spikes had 10 as Marshall turned in its fourth 50 percent field goal accuracy mark of the season (51.1).
Scarver rang up four 3-pointers and Pittman made three.
Marshall also made 18 of 28 foul shots, including going 11 of 15 in the second half and 10 of 11 in the final 8:47. Spikes, a 48.9 percent free throw shooter, was 6-for-8 and Kane (45.9 percent) was 3-for-3.
The Herd also stopped its streak of being outrebounded at four games with a 31-25 edge on the shorter Owls. Tinnon led with seven rebounds, Pittman got six and Spikes snagged six.
“Obviously, we needed a taste of victory,” Herrion said. “Now we face a tremendous challenge with a Top 25 team Memphis coming in.”
Rice came to play despite its season-long struggles and didn’t go down easily.
Owls head coach Ben Braun, who has more than 600 career wins at Rice, California, Eastern Michigan and Siena Heights (NAIA), said playing almost exclusively zone helped neutralize a much bigger Marshall team.
Braun said his team put up a good fight.
“We did some things that I think kept Marshall at bay, but in the end their size advantage was a factor,” he said.
Tamir Jackson, a 1,500-point career scorer, led the Owls with 16 and Austin Ranljak added 15. Freshman point guard Max Guercy had 12 while Washington and Julian DeBose both netted 10.
Ramjlak had seven rebounds.