Despite senior forward Robert Goff's career-high 27 points, the Marshall men's basketball team fell 86-79 at East Carolina on Saturday, which sends the Thundering Herd (13-18, 6-10 Conference USA) into this week's conference tournament without back-to-back wins since the beginning of December.
That loss puts Marshall at the No. 9 seed for the Conference USA tournament, which begins Tuesday. The Herd will play the loser of tonight's Tulane-Houston game in the first round. Game time will be announced later.
"We didn't get enough quality stops tonight when it mattered, especially down the stretch," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "Offensively, we were really, really good. We got what we wanted, but they made their free throws down the stretch."
The Herd, which trailed by 10 to the Pirates (18-11, 9-7 C-USA) at halftime, led 62-59 with 5:58 left in the second half. Goff, whose previous career high was 14 points last season versus Belmont, made one of two free throws to give Marshall that lead. But ECU guard Miguel Paul, who led ECU with 22 points and 10 assists, scored seven straight points after that to put the Pirates ahead 66-62.
Marshall tied it at 68 with 4:08 left on an Elijah Pittman 3-pointer, but couldn't get any closer. Pittman scored 21 against the Pirates, while DeAndre Kane scored 20 with a game-high 12 assists.
Saturday's game was a much different story than the first meeting between the Herd and the Pirates on Jan. 19, when Marshall trounced ECU 77-56. In that game, Marshall held ECU to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor and 25 percent from the 3-point line. In Greenville on Saturday, the Pirates made 24 of 46 baskets (52.2 percent) from the floor and 10 of 20 (50 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Herd shot respectably, making 30 of 61 (49.2 percent) from the floor and 5 of 13 (38.5 percent) from 3-point range. C-USA's leading scorer, ECU's Maurice Kemp, scored 21 points against Marshall, while Akeem Richmond scored 18, hitting four 3-pointers.
"We did a poor job on Richmond," Herrion said. "That's disappointing, because we spent so much time on him during scout (practice). Ten for 20 from 3 is definitely not a good job by us.
"It's a fresh start now as we head to Tulsa," Herrion added. "We have to clear our heads and get ready for the conference tournament."