March 7, 2012
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
Senior guard Damier Pitts overcame an early injury to score 16 points and help No. 6 seed Marshall defeat No. 11 seed SMU 74-56 Wednesday in Memphis, Tenn. during the first round of the Conference USA Championships.
The Thundering Herd (19-12) will play No. 3 seed Tulsa (17-13) in the quarterfinals Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET. The game from FedExForum will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
"A terrific win for us this afternoon," said Marshall head coach Tom Herrion. "I thought our defense really wore them down. We did a good job in our preparation and it carried over in our execution defensively."
All of Pitts' 16 points came in the second half after he left the game with a left knee injury at the 15:24 mark of the first half. He returned early in the second half and made an instant impact making 5-of-8 shots.
Sophomore DeAndre Kane led Marshall in scoring with 18 points and had four assists and three steals.
The absence of Pitts in the first half gave Shaquille Johnson the opportunity to take on the point guard position. Johnson responded with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting and recorded a game-high five assists.
Marshall dominated down low, outrebounding SMU 43-31 and holding a 42-18 advantage in the paint. Junior forward Dennis Tinnon had 15 rebounds to go with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting. Tinnon showed why he was named to the C-USA All-Defensive Team as 11 of his 15 boards were defensive.
Marshall shot 47.4 percent from the field while holding SMU (13-19) to 33.3 percent. The Herd shot better than its average at the free throw line going 16-for-23 for 69.6 percent.
Marshall held a 22-20 lead with 8:20 remaining and scored seven unanswered points to extend its lead to nine points with 4:06 to play. The Herd scored just before halftime as Kane rebounded his missed shot attempt and nailed a five-foot jumper to give Marshall a 33-26 lead at the half.
SMU scored the first seven points of the second half to tie the game 33-33. Marshall then scored the next nine points and began to run away with game from there.
The Herd held All-Conference USA Third Team member Robert Nyakundi to just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting. SMU was led by Rodney Clinkscales who finished with 17 points.
"I'm proud that my group gets a chance to survive and advance and our reward now is to play a very good Tulsa club tomorrow afternoon," Herrion said. "This was a really good way to start the tournament."