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Burks’ Career Night Pulls Herd Past Owls

Feb. 15, 2018

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HOUSTON – Junior guard C.J. Burks career-high 36 points and eight rebounds helped give the Marshall men’s basketball team a 93-80 victory over the Rice Owls at Tudor Fieldhouse on Thursday evening.

“It came down in the end in the last five or 10 minutes before we closed things out in the final minutes,” head coach Dan D’Antoni said. “Ajdin didn’t have his best game. He looked like he was running in mud. We’re going to take it easy tomorrow. When we go to Dallas, we’ll see if we can start bringing energy a little more early.”

With the win, the Herd moved to 18-8 overall (9-4 C-USA), while the Owls dropped to 5-21 (2-11 C-USA). Marshall made a season-high 54.2 percent of its 3-pointers thanks to shooting 13-of-24.

Burks’ career night came from 13-of-19 (68.4 percent) from the field, a near-perfect 6-of-7 (85.7 percent) of his 3-pointers and a perfect 4-of-4 at the line. If Burks made his last attempt from behind the arc, he would’ve become the first Marshall player to shoot flawlessly from three-point land in a contest since Scott Williams did so against Chattanooga in 1990.

Junior guard Jon Elmore added 28 points, six assists and seven rebounds. It was the fifth consecutive game where Elmore made at least four 3-pointers. Junior forward Ajdin Penava scored 14 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Rice’s Malik Osborne had a double-double from 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Connor Cashaw scored 24 points.

After being tied at 9-9 after over four minutes of action, Marshall went on an 8-1 run thanks to the efforts of junior guard Rondale Watson, Penava and Burks to have a 17-10 lead with 13:56 left in the first half. Every time the Owls battled back, Marshall went on another run. The Herd jumped to 35-23 lead with barely six minutes left in the first. It looked like the Herd was going to comfortably cruise into halftime, but Rice closed out the half with a 17-7 run, and Marshall held a 42-40 lead at the break.

“After we went up by 12 points, we took some risky passes,” D’Antoni said. “We had key free throw misses and that helped put Rice back in the ball game. What was a two-point lead at halftime should’ve been a 16 point lead. That’s where we need focus.”

Burks and Elmore combined for 28 of the Herd’s 40 first-half points. Burks added five rebounds, while Watson added six points and three boards and freshman guard Jarrod West dished out four assists. Rice’s Osborne and Cashaw combined for 30 points, with Osborne pulling down six rebounds. The Herd won the battle in the paint, 20-12, from turnovers, 9-5, and from bench points, 8-0.

The Owls jumped to a 53-51 lead with 15:50 left, which left Marshall playing catch up for most of the second half. The Herd finally caught up at the 7:12 mark after it went on a 7-0 run to give it a 77-75 lead. The run came courtesy of the duo that was Burks and Elmore. Marshall never looked back after that and cruised to victory.

“I’m going to enjoy this victory, because with my life, you need to enjoy every day and every day you wake up” D’Antoni said.

Burks scored 20 points in the second half from 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) field goals, five 3-pointers​ and four free throws. Elmore scored 16 of his second half points from 5-of-6 (83.3 percent) field goals, 2-of-3 (66.7) three-pointers and making 4-of-5 (80 percent) of his shots at the charity stripe.

The Herd will stay in Texas and travel to Denton to take on the North Texas Mean Green on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. ET.