HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - In the Marshall men's basketball team's 80-68 win Thursday night over Florida International, the Thundering Herd backed up its words from the days before the contest.
Saying they needed to "protect their house," the Herd players picked up their first Conference USA home win of the season and their first home win since Jan. 5 against Presbyterian. After losing four straight and seven of eight, Marshall has won two of its last three games.
The Herd, which was 6-4 at the Cam Henderson Center before Thursday's win, will try to make it two home wins in a row at noon Saturday versus Florida Atlantic (Comcast Sports South).
"It felt good, winning out there on our home floor and with our home crowd with us," Marshall forward Ryan Taylor said. "It was just a relief coming off a tough road trip."
The Herd (8-14, 2-5 C-USA) got 19 points from Chris Thomas and watched Kareem Canty score all 16 of his points and record six of his 10 assists in the second half. Marshall pulled ahead and stayed ahead thanks to a 9-2 run in the middle of the second half, keyed by five Canty points.
After falling behind 53-51 after a Tymell Murphy free throw with 11:14 left, Canty responded with a 3-pointer. Then Tamron Manning scored on a layup off a Cheikh Sane pass, DeVince Boykins dunked off a Canty assist and Canty followed with a layup. The Herd made 17 of 28 shots (60.7 percent) in the second half to keep the Panthers (11-10, 3-3 C-USA) at bay.
"I thought we were very efficient, especially in the second half," Marshall coach Tom Herrion said. "We played with better pace and better efficiency on offense for the most part."
Before Canty warmed up in the second half, Thomas paced the team out of the break. He kept Marshall in striking distance by scoring eight straight Herd points and 10 of the team's first 12 in the second period. In making eight of 14 shots from the floor, it was the third straight game where he shot at least 57 percent.
"I made an and-one that I really shouldn't have made, because it was a hard foul," Thomas said. "It went in. I just put up the next shot and that one went in and I just got hot."
The Herd staked a quick 6-3 lead, but started having serious trouble keeping the Panthers out of the low post. FIU, behind Tymell Murphy and his litany of reverse layups, took a 15-6 lead over Marshall.