HUNTINGTON — Defense wins, and it did for Marshall on Saturday as its women’s basketball team defeated Conference USA’s leading offense in Alabama-Birmingham, 61-56 at the Cam Henderson Center.
In the win the Thundering Herd (7-8 overall, 2-2 C-USA) was more tenacious in its defense and more efficient with its offense than it showed in Thursday’s lopsided loss to Middle Tennessee.
Marshall still struggled with its 3-point shooting, going 4 of 19 behind the arc, but it limited the Blazers in that area, holding them to 31 percent shooting from the floor and 34.8 percent from 3-point range.
It was the type of win Marshall head coach Tony Kemper said the Herd needed to bounce back from Thursday’s performance.
“That game was won with defense against probably, arguably for sure, the best offensive team in the league,” Kemper said.
UAB (9-7, 1-3) came into the game leading C-USA in points per game (78.9), field goal percentage (46.4), 3-point field goal percentage (41.3) and 3-point field goals per game (9.4) and 3-point field goals made (132). The Blazers rely on Rachael Childress, the league’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, to lead the 3-point shooting as she is C-USA’s all-time 3-point shooting leader with 371 made.
On Saturday, however, UAB finished 34.8 percent behind the 3-point line on 8-of-23 shooting and 31.0 percent from the field overall, finishing 28 points below its season average. Childress finished with 10 points on 2 of 17 shooting and 1 of 8 from three.
“The things we did to Childress, her 2 for 17, that’s as good as you can guard her,” Kemper said. “She’s one of the best players in our league.”
Kemper said Marshall had just enough offense to pull out the win that now moves the Thundering Herd to a tie for fifth place in the C-USA standings with Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic. MTSU defeated Marshall on Thursday 75-55 in Huntington, but takes on the Hilltoppers in its next home game on Jan. 25.
Kemper said a win over the Blazers, picked fourth in the league’s preseason voting, should give his team the confidence needed to perform well through the rest of the season, including its next game Thursday at Charlotte.
Marshall was led in scoring by Taylor Pearson who rebounded from scoring just 8 points on Thursday against the Blue Raiders to get 17 points. Catlettsburg, Kentucky, native Savannah Wheeler finished with 15 points.
Pearson, a junior from Columbus, Ohio, appeared to be playing in pain Thursday, dealing with a right shoulder injury, but said after Saturday’s game the effects of that injury are minimal.
“It’s more of a mental thing,” Pearson said. “It’s ups and downs, but it’s still attached.”
Wheeler, a freshman, shot 3-of-9 from the floor in the game, including 1-of-3 behind the arc, but was 8-of-8 at the free throw line, hitting key shots down the stretch to protect the Herd’s lead.
“When it comes to games, I think you have to stay locked in,” Wheeler said of hitting the free throws in the high-pressure situation.
As a team, Marshall shot 19-22 from the foul line for 86.4 percent in the game and was 11-of-14 in the final period.