HATTIESBURG, Miss. – As has been the story in many of its losses this season, the Marshall men’s basketball team came up just to Conference USA leader Southern Mississippi, 60-57, on Friday night at Reed Green Coliseum.
The Golden Eagles improved to 20-3 on the year with the win and now sit at 7-1 in C-USA play, while the Thundering Herd fell to 8-16 on the season and 2-7 in league play. Marshall leads the series 9-8 and is now 1-5 all-time against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg.
For the seventh time in as many games, coach Tom Herrion fielded a different starting five. This time the Marshall starters were Shawn Smith (Sacramento, Calif.), Kareem Canty (Harlem, N.Y.), Chris Thomas (Denver), Cheikh Sane (Dakar, Senegal) and Ryan Taylor (Indianapolis).
A dunk from Sane with 14:01 to play in the first half put the Herd on top 13-3 behind an 11-0 run, forcing a Southern Miss timeout from coach Donnie Tyndall. To that point, Thomas was accountable for six Marshall points as the Herd started 5-of-6 from the field. A three from Taylor made it 16-3 with 12:47 remaining in the first half, stretching the run to 14-0.
Despite turnovers caused by Southern Miss defensive pressure, Marshall was able to keep its lead in double figures. As 5:03 was left until the break, the Herd led 30-18 with an even scoring distribution from its starters and role players.
With the clock winding down in the first half, Canty attempted a long-range three and sank it as the buzzer sounded to end the first half. The long-range bucket put the Herd up 35-24 at the break.
The Herd was able to take hold of the first half by outrebounding the Golden Eagles (17-10), as well as hot shooting on 56 percent (14-of-25) from the field and 55 percent (6-of-11) from beyond the arc. Taylor was the game’s leading scorer through the first 20 minutes with nine points, followed by eight from Thomas.
Back out for the second half, Marshall and Southern Miss exchanged baskets in the opening minutes. The Golden Eagles worked to trim its deficit to single digits, but the Herd worked to prevent just that as a pair of free throws from Taylor put the score at 41-30 with 16:04 remaining in the contest.
A second-half surge that was expected from the Golden Eagles came near the 12-minute mark as the Marshall lead was cut to three, 44-41, by the 9-0 Southern Miss run. A three from Canty with 9:47 to play snapped the run and the Herd’s scoring drought.
With 1:02 left, Jerrod Brooks knocked down a three for the Golden Eagles, tying the game at 55. A layup from Smith was how the Herd responded to go up 57-55 and force a Southern Miss timeout with 34.1 seconds remaining.
Out of a timeout with 6.3 seconds remaining, Neil Watson knocked down a three from the top of the key to put his Golden Eagles out front, 58-57, as 2.0 seconds remained.
The Herd had one last chance at the win and an errant pass attempt from Smith to Taylor handed the ball back to the home team. After making a pair of free throws, time ran out and Southern Miss secured a 60-57 victory.
After the 40-minute contest, Marshall finished 44.9 percent (22-of-49) from the field and 42.1 (8-of-19) percent from three, while Southern Miss shot 52.8 percent (19-of-36) on the night and 40 percent (8-of-20) from downtown. Despite outrebounding the Golden Eagles by eight (31-23), the Herd’s 16 turnovers proved costly, leading to 19 Southern Miss points.
The Herd will continue its southern swing in a Sunday matinee at Tulane with tip-off set for 2 p.m.