HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The Marshall men's basketball team showed how it's capable of playing in Tuesday's 88-84 win over Southern Mississippi.
"I told y'all we can play, man," senior center Nigel Spikes said after that game. "We can play with the best of them."
Now it has to show it's capable of an encore, because the Thundering Herd closes its regular season Saturday visiting one of Conference USA's better teams.
Marshall (13-17, 6-9) wraps things up before next week's conference tournament with a rematch against East Carolina (17-11, 8-7). The Pirates are ahead of the Herd in the standings, but they weren't as lucky in the teams' first meeting in Huntington. ECU never led that Jan. 19 game and Marshall led by as many as 29 in cruising to a 77-56 win.
That was the last time the Herd held a .500 record this season. Marshall was pulverized by 56 points against Southern Miss in its next game, the start of an 11-game span in which the Herd went 3-8. The Herd got its revenge on the Golden Eagles with a 60-point swing between their first and second meetings, and freshman guard Tamron Manning said that provides a major momentum boost heading into Saturday's game.
"I think this (Southern Miss) win is huge," he said. "What they did to us at Southern Miss and how everything happened after that loss, I think getting this win against them is really big for our confidence heading into ECU and it's going to propel us into the tournament."
Marshall upset the Golden Eagles with its best shooting night of the season. Working from the inside out, the Herd shot 55.1 percent from the floor and made 10 of 20 3-pointers.
Marshall also began the night in a zone defense, a rare occurrence, but a strategy Marshall Coach Tom Herrion used after starting all three of his senior post players.
Southern Miss finally found its shooting touch, but made just three of 13 shots in the game's first 8:08 as Marshall took an early 16-8 lead.