HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall men's basketball Coach Tom Herrion wished he didn't sound like a broken record when discussing his Thundering Herd team's games. But the song remained the same following Marshall's 71-59 loss to No. 22 Memphis on Saturday night at the Cam Henderson Center.
The Herd (11-15, 4-7 Conference USA) began both halves against the Tigers (22-3, 11-0 C-USA) with a flurry of points that put Memphis on its heels. But the Tigers steadied themselves both times and countered with physical play that sent the Herd to its sixth loss in eight games.
"We came out of the gate and made a few shots, but that was a little bit of fool's gold, I guess," Marshall Coach Tom Herrion said. "We didn't get enough stops and went through a major drought. We regroup at halftime and played like we needed to play. Down 17 against a team like that, you've got to play perfect, which we were for a while."
That streak of perfection came at the start of the second half, when Marshall held Memphis to 1-of-10 shooting and was able to chisel away at the Tigers' commanding lead. Memphis, who hadn't lost since Louisville won at the FedEx Forum on Dec. 15, watched a 43-26 halftime lead shrink to 46-41 after an Elijah Pittman free throw with 10:44 left in the game.
Perfection ended 14 seconds later. Memphis' Geron Johnson drained a 3-pointer at the 10:30 mark and that sparked a 7-2 run that ended with another Johnson 3-pointer with 8:22 left. Memphis led 56-43 at that point and the Herd never trailed by fewer than eight points for the rest of the game.
Sophomore swingman Adonis Thomas led all scorers with a career-high 23 points and tied a career high with 10 rebounds. Pittman and DeAndre Kane led the Herd with 16 points each, while Dennis Tinnon added 15 points and 13 rebounds. Joe Jackson scored 12 points for Memphis, while Johnson added 11.
Memphis Coach Josh Pastner wasn't surprised with the runs Marshall made to start both halves. He watched the Herd stand toe-to-toe with his Tigers their 73-72 win at Memphis, the closest anyone has come to derailing the Tigers' winning streak, which now stands at 16 games.
"They run good stuff," Pastner said. "They run great plays. They're a hard team to guard. I was proud of our guys tonight, defensively. That's a good win for us. We'll take it."
Marshall began the game on fire, jumping out to a quick 10-3 lead thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers from Pittman and D.D. Scarver. But that flurry was fleeting. After Scarver's 3 at the 17:43 mark, Memphis outscored the Herd 24-5 in the next 10:10. The Tigers made seven of their first 10 shots of the game, all inside the 3-point line. Then Thomas hit a pair of 3s.
Tinnon finally broke through with a layup with 7:32 left in the half, but by then, Marshall had fallen behind 27-17. The Tigers pulled away even further by halftime thanks to 15 first-half points from Thomas, who had entered Saturday night averaging 10.9 points per game.
Kane said the Herd needs the energy from the beginning of both Saturday's halves to run through the entire game if Marshall wants a chance at righting the ship.
"We've got to come out of the gate with the same intensity we had in the second half," he said. "The first half, we played good for five minutes. After that, we couldn't score the ball and we couldn't get a stop."
-- Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.