Feb. 8, 2006
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Rice forward Morris Almond scored 36 points to help the Owls fend off the Thundering Herd in overtime, 78-75, Wednesday evening at the Henderson Center.
Rice improves to 10-11, 4-4 in Conference USA, while the Herd drops to 9-12, 2-5 in league play.
The Owls held on to defeat the Thundering Herd, despite giving up a 12-point lead in the second half, and a three-point lead in the final four seconds of regulation.
Rice led by six, 65-59, with :50 to go in regulation, but Marshall fought back to send the game into overtime. Junior guard Tre Whitted (Wilmington, N.C.) knocked in a three to make the score, 65-62, and on the ensuing inbounds play, Mark Patton (Barboursville, W.Va.) stole the Owls' Patrick Britton's inbounds pass and banked in a lay-up to cut the Rice lead to one, 65-64. Rice's Rodney Foster was fouled on the next Owls' possession, and made one-of-two free throws to push the Rice lead to two, 66-64. Patton again responded, this time with a banked lay-up to tie the score at 66.
Morris Almond, who scored the most points by a Herd opponent in a game this season, found himself open on the next Rice possession, drove to the basket, and converted the bucket and the plus one opportunity to give the Owls a 69-66 lead. Rice coach Willis Wilson decided to foul Marshall guard Chris Ross (San Antonio, Texas), and the Herd's starting point guard converted the front end of a one-and-one to cut the lead to two, 69-67. He intentionally missed the back end, and senior postman LaVar Carter put in the errant shot for his only bucket of the game to tie the score at 69. Rice point guard Lorenzo Williams then traveled catching the inbounds pass, and Whitted's desperation three-pointer as time expired grazed off of the front rim to send the game to overtime, the Herd's third extra session game of the season.
Both teams battled back and forth in the overtime session, but Williams would not be denied, scoring seven of the Owls' nine points, including a game-clinching jumper with 27 seconds remaining to make the score, 78-75. Patton missed a game-tying three pointer with five seconds remaining, and Aikens missed another opportunity as time expired.
The Herd could not get things going in the first half and trailed at the break, 25-21. Marshall finally started clicking on the offensive end in the second half and scored 48 points in the period, its highest output in a half all season.
"We have got to get tougher if we can continue on this month," said Marshall head coach Ron Jirsa. "We got back in the game and tied it, but I thought in overtime we slumped back down to where we started, and that disappointed me. I didn't understand why we couldn't play harder in overtime."
"The press got us back in the game," said Patton. "We got some turnovers and easy buckets. We just weren't able to pull it out in the end.
"We didn't come out with the energy we needed tonight. When we don't come out with the energy, we can't do the things we want."
Despite the 48 points in the second half, Marshall struggled from the floor, shooting only 37.2% from the floor (29-78) and 20.6% from the beyond-the-arc (7-34). Meanwhile, the Owls fired in 48.2% of its shots, 40% from three, and converted on 75.9% from the free throw line.
"This game gives us some confidence," said Rice head coach Willis Wilson. "I told our guys before the game that if we look back on the 7-10 games, we've played some good basketball.
"Tonight we controlled the tempo. Marshall was able to make some runs, but we regained control and made stops. We played with a lot more spirit and our guys need to learn that we have that extra gear deep down."
Patton scored 26 points, two shy of a career high, and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Marshall. Markel Humphrey (Ellenwood, Ga.) added 14 points, Tre Whitted scored 11 points, and Travis Aikens chipped in ten points. Chris Ross scored only four points, but he dished out 11 assists and had five steals. Ross' 11 assists is the most for a Herd player since A.W. Hamilton had 11 assists on December 13, 2003, against Northern Illinois.
Almond also added ten rebounds to his 36 points to lead the Rice effort. Lorenzo Williams was the other Owl player in double-figures with 15 points.
Marshall returns to action this Saturday against #3 Memphis, the highest ranked team to ever play in the Henderson Center. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m., and can be seen nationally on CSTV.