Herd, Spikes send UCF on their way
HUNTINGTON -- Dunking is usually a sure way to get two points.
But, not Saturday afternoon. Not with Marshall Thundering Herd center Nigel Spikes in the lane.
UCF forward Kasey Wilson tried to dunk twice on Spikes and was rejected both times.
Spikes turned in a monster performance with nine blocked shots, 11 points, four rebounds and two assists in Marshall's 75-71 men's basketball defeat of UCF in Cam Henderson Center. A turnout of 5,856 spectators who braved snow and icy roads to get there roared each time the Herd's 6-foot-10 senior center swatted a shot by the Knights.
The 46.5 percent free throw shooter also made five of six attempts.
"We were desperate today and that's how we played," Spikes said. "I wouldn't back down either, but he wasn't going to dunk on me or anything like that."
Marshall halted a losing streak at three games and is 10-12 for the season and 3-4 in Conference USA The Herd won with good defense and its best shooting report card of the season at 51.9 percent against a UCF team that had won its last four and nine of 12.
Herd head coach Tom Herrion said it was a really good win against a really good team.
"We made some big plays down the stretch which you have to do against a good team in a great game, and that's obviously a rivalry-type of game with a really nice atmosphere.
"A good bounce back for our kids, and I'm proud of them."
UCF (15-6, 5-2) made its final Huntington appearance before joining the Big East Conference next season.
The game began with Marshall fans booing UCF head coach Donnie Jones, who left the Herd to lead the Knights in 2010, but settled in to watch a contest that turned into a grinding affair that had 16 lead changes and was tied 11 times.
Spikes, who scored 10 in the second half, sank four consecutive foul shots for a 58-57 lead with 5:03 remaining. He tossed in a short jump shot before taking a feed from Kane for a layup and Marshall had a 68-64 lead with 1:16 remaining.
Marshall made seven of 12 free throw attempts in the final minute.
"I'm happy for Nigel Spikes," said Jones, who recruited Spikes during his time as the Marshall head coach from 2008-10. "I'm not happy for us, but that's what I thought Nigel could become here."
Spikes wasn't the Herd's only shot-blocker. Yous Mbao came off the bench to swat three in a four-minute appearance of the first half while Dennis Tinnon and Elijah Pittman had one each.
The 14 blocked shots tied for second-most in school history.
Marshall held UCF right at its season scoring average and guarded the Knights into 41.3 percent shooting that was well less than they usually make.
"We played defense," said Pittman, who led Marshall with 20 points. "Everybody was together today. We weren't pouting or anything like that.
"We played like we needed to win."
Herd guard D.D. Scarver tacked on 16 points with one 3-point field goal and Tinnon scored 13. Rob Goff scored six from off the bench, the same as Dre Kane, the other Jones recruit still with the team, who also had 12 assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Marshall made 16 of 25 foul shots (64.0 percent) and turned the ball over just 13 times.
C-USA preseason player of the year selection Keith Clanton led the Knights with 24 points and nine rebounds. Guard Calvin Newell followed with 19 points and Isaiah Sykes had 10.
UCF had a plus-12 edge in rebounds, which Herrion said was caused partly by all the blocked shots. Several blocks went out of bounds as dead ball rebounds for the Knights.
"This is a good win," Kane said. "We got our confidence back."
The Herd, now 9-2 for games in Cam Henderson Center, takes its act on the road Wednesday at Tulane and Saturday at UAB seeking its first win away from home.
Spikes had the most blocks by a Herd player since Hassan Whiteside rejected 13 against UCF on Feb. 27, 2010.
Scarver has made a 3-point shot in all 22 games.
Mbao appeared in his seventh game this season and the first time in specially made sunglasses after he was bothered by light sensitivity related to a head injury.