March 9, 2012
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Box Score (PDF) | Championships Central
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
For the first time since 1997, the Marshall men's basketball team will be playing in a conference final after defeating Southern Miss 73-62 Friday in the semifinals of the Conference USA Championships at FedExForum.
The Thundering Herd (21-12) became the first No. 6 seed to ever make the finals of the tournament. It will face top-seeded Memphis (25-8) Saturday at 11:30 a.m. ET on CBS for the right to play in the NCAA Tournament next week. Marshall has not qualified for the "Big Dance" since 1987.
"It's just a terrific win against an outstanding club, an NCAA tournament team in Southern Miss that obviously has had a heck of a year," Marshall head coach Tom Herrion said. "It's a big win for us and we are thrilled to have a chance to play for a championship."
Senior guard Damier Pitts poured in 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Pitts was also 6-for-6 from the free throw line which contributed to Marshall's season-high 82.4 percent (14-for-17) from the charity stripe.
The Herd won despite allowing 16 turnovers which the Golden Eagles (25-8) contributed to 20 points. Southern Miss committed just three turnovers, the fewest of any Marshall opponent this season.
Marshall shot a season-high 54.3 percent from the field and 52.9 percent (9-for-17) from three-point range, the most against an NCAA Division I opponent this season.
"We got a lot of good looks tonight," Pitts said. "Dago Pena was knocking down shots, DeAnadre Kane was really a great distributor tonight and finding the open man."
Kane scored 14 points and tied a season-high with seven assists. Pena was 3-for-5 from three point range to finish with nine points.
Junior forward Dennis Tinnon scored 10 points and had 13 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double and 11th of the season. With his 13 rebounds, Tinnon broke the tournament record for total rebounds with 40 in three games played.
Marshall held a 24-18 lead with 6:28 to play in the first half after a Pitts three-pointer. The Herd then scored just five more points the remainder of the half, but held onto a 29-28 lead.
Southern Miss grabbed its first lead of the second half, 45-43 with 13:35 remaining. The Golden Eagles increased their lead to 52-47 with 10:05 left to play. Marshall then went on a 19-6 run over a span of nearly seven minutes to take a 68-58 lead with 3:34 remaining.
The Herd shot 65.2 percent from the field in the second half while the Golden Eagles were held to 32.5 percent shooting.
Angelo Johnson led Southern Miss with 24 points on 11-for-17 shooting.