BOGACZYK: Senior Moments and More Lift Herd in OT|
March 5, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - There were senior moments, to be sure, but on Senior Night for Marshall women's basketball 2013-14, what was most memorable is what mattered most.
"We came out on top, and I'm happy for that, for all of us," Thundering Herd senior forward Orlandria Williams said.
In a stirring comeback in the regular-season finale and last Henderson Center appearance for Williams and fellow seniors Erica Woods and Suporia Dickens, Marshall rallied from a 13-point deficit with 15:45 to play Wednesday night and downed UTSA in overtime, 81-76.
The victory sends the Herd (10-19, 3-13) into a Conference USA Tournament first-round game next Tuesday in El Paso, Texas, against ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic (16-13, 6-10), which won 87-68 last week at the Henderson Center.
The Owls finished in a five-team mosh pit for ninth place, and gets the tiebreaker over the other four 6-10 teams (FIU, North Texas, Rice, Tulsa), winning because FAU beat Tulsa in their only meeting of the season.
Marshall is the last-place No. 16 seed, but in the home finale, the Herd didn't feel like - and didn't play like it.
The Herd, which had won only two of its previous 15 games, limited the Roadrunners (13-16, 4-12, No. 14 tournament seed) to 9-of-31 shooting in the second half and overtime.
Marshall had four scorers in double figures, including junior post player Chukwuka Ezeigbo, who had her second double-double of the season with 14 rebounds and 12 points. She also had a Herd season-high six blocks - matching the individual high in a C-USA game this season -- and made her last six free throws when they counted most.
It was Marshall's first overtime win since Dec. 2, 2010, a 64-61 double-OT triumph over George Washington at the Henderson Center.
It also was only the Herd's second win this season after trailing at halftime in 14 games. The other was a 71-56 home win over Wofford on Dec. 19, after trailing 25-23.
Sophomore point guard Norrisha Victrum led Marshall with 17 points - 12 of those on four 3-pointers -- and Dickens had 14 points to go with nine rebounds, while freshman center Chelsey Romero scored 14.
Dickens, Williams and Woods combined for 20 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in 68 minutes.
"I was just proud of my team because we worked hard to get us this win," Dickens said.
Williams made only her fourth start of the season. The 5-foot-7 veteran from Memphis, Tenn., was averaging only 2.0 points and 7.9 minutes per game, but her "buying in" with second-year coach Matt Daniel and his staff is indicative of what has allowed the Herd to turn in efforts like the one in the final 25 minutes on Senior Night.
"I'm glad we ended up with this set of coaches, because they motivate us in every way," Williams said. "They just give us the drive to go out and try to win every time we play."
In a postgame interview, the senior trio agreed this victory was perhaps a bit off-the-wall.
Marshall trailed 43-32 at halftime. Asked what changed things after the break, Daniel - who had walked out of the locker room and was standing behind his seniors -- said, "Yeah, I broke something in the locker room that I'm going to have to pay for."
After group laughter, Woods explained that the Herd has a "forecast board" on which game goals are listed on a locker room wall. Daniel "hit it with his fist," she said, "and it came down off the wall."
The Herd still trailed 55-44 with 11:52 left in regulation, and the hosts already had six team fouls in the half. But from UTSA's 57-49 advantage with 9:53 to go, Marshall scored eight straight points in 3:16 -- while the Roadrunners went empty on six straight possessions -- to tie the game at 57.
From that point, there were six lead changes and four ties - one of those created at 72 when Leah Scott's duck-in bucket made it 72-all with 22.8 seconds left in regulation. A Roadrunner turnover and missed MU shot brought it to overtime.
Ezeigbo's one-and-one and a Victrum layup tied it and gave Marshall the lead for good, and Ezeigbo scored again down low on a second-chance opportunity for a 78-74 advantage with 2:45 left. UTSA, led by Mathilde Hergott's 17 points, scored on only one of its final possessions in OT.
Marshall also made nine of its final 10 free throws in the last 4:29 of regulation and in the extra period.
"We were down at half; we really didn't play to our potential," Woods said. "Coach got on us in the locker room, and no matter -- underclassmen, upperclassmen -- we all bought into the system and what Coach is trying to get us to do. We came out on the upper end. And that's great, because obviously it's our last home game."
So, as the Herd heads for El Paso, it has three seniors who have combined for 1,566 points and 1,079 rebounds in 6,007 minutes.
"We just played for one another," Williams said. "Not just the seniors. All of us."