Herd Comeback Falls Short at Sold Out WKU
C.J. Burks and Jon Elmore combined for 48 points
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – A 15-point run from WKU in the last five minutes of game time helped sink the Marshall men’s basketball team in an 85-74 defeat on Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
With the loss, the Herd fell to 14-7 (5-3 Conference USA), while the Hilltoppers rose to 15-6 (7-1 C-USA).
“That was a great atmosphere for a game,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “Obviously, it’s not the result we would have liked, but it’s good for the conference and for the sport of basketball. I’ve said it before, I would rather lose in front of 10,000 people, instead of winning in front of 10 people. If you win in front of 10, that means people don’t care. It’s good for y’all to report and good for me to coach.”
Reigning C-USA Player of the Week and junior guard C.J. Burks led all scorers with 29 points, while he added two rebounds and an assist. Junior guard Jon Elmore added a complete game of 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists. WKU’s Darius Thompson had a team-high 20 points.
After trailing 16-10 at the 11:42 mark, the Herd went on a six-point run to tie things up at 16-16 after Elmore scored four points and junior guard Rondale Watson drilled a jumper. WKU and Marshall traded buckets until the Hilltoppers took a 41-32 lead. Elmore hit two free throws and found Burks for a corner three at the buzzer to cut the Hilltoppers lead to 41-37 at the half.
“We have got to find a way to keep our big men on the court,” D’Antoni said. “Ajdin ran into foul trouble and then we lost Jannson Williams to an injury. Those are really the only two big men we have. We had to play most of the game with a fringe guard/forward and four guards the rest of the way.”
Burks led the way for Marshall at the half with 13 points from five made field goals and three shots from behind the arc. Elmore had an all-around half with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. The Herd’s three free throw attempts were the lowest amount of attempts in a first half for Marshall since only taking one against Chattanooga on Dec. 5. WKU attempted 15 free throws in the first half.
The Herd slowly chipped away at the Hilltoppers’ lead until it only trailed by three with 12:33 to go. Burks gave the Herd its first lead of the game when he nailed a three-pointer to give Marshall a 59-58 lead with 12 minutes left.
After Elmore made four straight free throws, the Herd had a 74-70 advantage with 4:39 mark, its largest lead of the night. From there, the wheels came off for the Herd when junior forward Ajdin Penava and his replacement, freshman Darius George, fouled out with 1:59 minutes to go. WKU went on a 15-0 run to seal its victory.
“We went up 74-70 and I thought we had three good chances to win,” D’Antoni said. “If we made two of those, I think we would’ve won. To their credit, they stopped us and capitalized on their own opportunities. It’s a fine line between winning and losing. Last year, it was a fine line, but they beat us this year.”
The Herd will stay on the road and travel to San Antonio to take on UTSA on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 8 p.m. the game will be broadcasted on beIN.