CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After falling behind by 11 points early on, the Marshall men’s basketball team kept fighting to battle back and collect a 59-56 victory over Charlotte in Conference USA play on Saturday night at Halton Arena.
With the road victory, the Thundering Herd improves to 9-17 on the year and 3-8 in C-USA play, with the loss dropping the 49ers to 14-10 overall and 5-6 in league play.
As part of league scheduling, Marshall will see Charlotte once again before the regular season concludes, but in Huntington, as the two sides are “rivals” and travel partners, which is accompanied by a home-and-home series.
Coach Tom Herrion went with the starting five of Shawn Smith (Sacramento), Kareem Canty (Harlem, N.Y.), Chris Thomas (Denver), Cheikh Sane (Dakar, Senegal) and Ryan Taylor (Indianapolis) for the third straight game.
At the second media timeout of the game, 10:10 remained until the half and Charlotte led 21-15, while Canty paced the Herd with eight points in just 10 minutes of playing time. The gap widened as the 49ers went up double digits, but 10 straight points from Thomas, including two three-point plays, brought the score to 32-29 with 3:22 left in the half.
With the clock winding down at the end of the first half, Thomas snatched an offensive rebound and banked a layup off the glass to put his side up 36-34 right before the buzzer sounded. The bucket capped a 17-2 run that spanned 7:12 and closed the half for the Herd.
Through the first 20 minutes, 14 points from Thomas and 13 from Canty combined for 27 of Marshall’s 36 first-half points, while Marshall turned eight Charlotte turnovers into 14 points.
The 49ers came out of the locker room re-energized for the second half and jumped back out front, but not for long. Success on the offensive glass allowed the Herd to re-take and extend its lead to a game-high nine points, 50-41, as 12:06 remained.
Charlotte remained cold from the field as the Marshall defense kept its pressure high, allowing the visiting Herd to hold serve, 53-47, with 5:40 to play after a jumper from Canty. Buckets from Canty and Thomas kept a multiple-possession buffer between the two teams as the 49ers looked to trim the margin.
With 1:27 remaining, a dunk from Terrance Williams brought Charlotte within four, but a mid-range jumper from Canty followed, making it 59-53 in favor of the Herd with 53.4 seconds left. Following a Marshall turnover, Shawn Lester knocked down a trey with 19.4 seconds to play, bringing the score to 59-56.
On the ensuing possession, the Herd committed another turnover, this one due to failing to inbound the ball in under five seconds, which gave the ball back to Charlotte with a shot at tying the game. After an initial miss, the 49ers grabbed the rebound to set up another chance at extending the game, but could not connect as the Herd reeled in the miss and ran out the clock to win 59-56.
Marshall finished 40 percent from the field (22-of-55) as Canty finished with a game-high 21 points, followed by 18 from Thomas. Charlotte went 22-for-62 from the field (35.5 percent).
The Herd will return home to the Cam Henderson Center to take on UAB, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.