Herd's Season Ends with NIT Loss


Senior guard Shaquille Johnson awaits a free throw attempt Tuesday at Middle Tennessee.

Senior guard Shaquille Johnson awaits a free throw attempt Tuesday at Middle Tennessee.

March 14, 2012

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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Making its first NIT appearance in 24 years, the Marshall men's basketball team ended its season with an 86-78 loss at Middle Tennessee State Tuesday at the Murphy Center.

"It's a disappointing way to end our season," said Marshall head coach Tom Herrion. "We give Middle Tennessee a ton of credit, they played really well. They looked like a team that hasn't played in nine or 10 days. We looked like a team that played their fifth game in seven days. Those are just facts. I was concerned about our level of energy and what had left in the tank."

The road weary Thundering Herd (21-14) never held a lead in the game and was down by as many as 21 points with 8:31 to play before beginning to mount a comeback. Marshall cut the deficit to five points with 1:43 to play, but would get no closer to pulling even. Shaquille Johnson had a wide-open three-point attempt that missed and turned into a fast break dunk by the Blue Raiders (26-6) to take an 82-75 lead with 51 seconds remaining.

"I'm thrilled with our three seniors, what we have done this year," Herrion said. "It's just a bitter way for us to end."

Junior forward Dennis Tinnon recorded his 12th double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He was 7-for-11 from the field and six of his rebounds were on the offensive end.

Senior guard Damier Pitts scored a game-high 19 points, with 14 coming in the second half. He was 5-for-9 from three-point range, tying his career-high for most three's in a game. Three of his trey's came during Marshall's comeback attempt in the final eight minutes. Pitts finishes his career tied with Charlie Slack for 12th on Marshall's all-time scoring list with 1,551 points.

Fellow seniors Johnson and Dago Pena also played well in their final games. Johnson scored 11 points and brought down four rebounds. Pena drained his 147th career three-pointer, a number that ranks 10th all-time, and finished with six points.

Sophomore DeAndre Kane scored 13 points with seven coming from the free throw line. He also had seven rebounds and three assists. Junior forward Nigel Spikes rounded out the double-figure scoring with 10 points to go with five rebounds.

Both teams shot well from the field as Marshall made 45.8 percent of its shots and MTSU made 52.5 percent.

The Thundering Herd was outrebounded 38-36, just the seventh time all season it had lost the rebounding edge. The Blue Raiders also held a 50-36 advantage in points score in the paint.

MTSU was led by Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year LaRon Dendy who finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Blue Raiders had 23 assists, the most by a Herd opponent this season and just nine turnovers to Marshall's 13.