Marshall basketball
(Sholten Singer, The Herald Dispatch)

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. – Austin Loop hit a long jumper with no time remaining in overtime as Marshall (16-15, 12-6) escaped a near huge upset on senior night. The Herd pulled off a 108-106 victory after a 23-point comeback against the Golden Eagles (8-21, 5-13). Marshall point guard Jon Elmore led the charge with 35 points, 8 assists, and no turnovers in 43 minutes of play.

Despite the long night the Herd had, it still managed to get five players into double digits. Elmore had 35, senior James Kelly had 24, C.J. Burks had 18 off the bench, Ryan Taylor had 12, and Loop had 11. Kelly added 12 rebounds and 4 steals on what was most likely his last game in the Cam Henderson Center.

To put the Herd’s long night into perspective, Marshall’s 96-95 lead with 26 seconds left in regulation was its first of the night since an Austin Loop three to open up the game. After the first 11 minutes of the game, Southern Miss had extended its lead to 23 points.

In the span of the next 9 minutes, Marshall managed to bring the Golden Eagles’ lead back to within 6, only to see it grow back to 17. The Herd trailed 54-37 at halftime, shooting 1 of 17 from the three-point line, something that most likely won’t ever happen again. Southern Miss, on the other hand, couldn’t miss (pun intended). The Golden Eagles were shooting 51.5% from the field in the first half, including 7 of 16 from three-point land.

“We started the game flat and took too many 3-pointers early in the game that were early in the shot clock as well,” said Marshall basketball coach Dan D’Antoni. There was very little ball movement and we ended up digging ourselves a big hole.”

Marshall still trailed by 17 with 11 minutes left in the ball game. Every time the Herd would make a run, Southern Miss had an answer for it. The Golden Eagles finally stopped having answers with five minutes remaining in regulation. Southern Miss head coach Doc Sadler was ejected with his second technical, and the Herd capitalized with an 8-0 run to make it a two-point game, 85-83. Southern Miss senior guard Kourtlin Jackson picked up his 5th personal foul with 1:26 left. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a more relieved crowd. The senior, playing in his last game as a Golden Eagle, scored 40 points on the night and was a large part of why the Herd trailed by 23 in the first place.

Down by two with 14 seconds remaining, Marshall took the ball down the court in hopes of tying the game. Jon Elmore drove to the basket, but couldn’t get an open shot, causing him to miss. After a series of failed tip-ins and a jump ball, there was only 0.4 seconds left on the clock, and it looked as though the Herd would take a huge loss to close out the regular season.

D’Antoni drew up a play that would free James Kelly up down the middle and give him a chance to lay the ball in the basket.

“We put Kilgore in one corner and Loop in the other corner. With four-tenths of a second left, we were able to spread out the court. We had C.J. set a screen and that left James open,” said the second year head coach following Saturday night’s win.

Elmore, taking the ball out-of-bounds, threw the ball up for Kelly, who soared above everyone else, took the ball, and tipped it in. That tied the game at 98 apiece and gave the crowd of 6,431 an extra 5 minutes of free basketball.

In overtime, Marshall fell behind by 3 on two occasions. Once after a three by Raheem Watts, and again after a three by Robert Thomas III. James Kelly hit a three on the other end to answer the Golden Eagles and give the Herd a 1-point lead with just over a minute left in the contest. Tied at 106, Jon Elmore drew a crucial charge with 8 seconds remaining to give the ball to the Herd. Elmore took the ball down the court and passed the ball to Austin Loop, who was sitting in the corner ready to shoot. Instead, Loop dribbled inside the three-point line for what would be his only two-point jump-shot attempt of the night, and he drained it.

“I don’t know what I was thinking. I was about to throw it back to Jon. I couldn’t look at the clock so when I stepped back I threw it up, God was looking out. He was with me on that shot because it went in,” said the junior guard, who just recently was announced to the Conference USA All-Academic team alongside Jon Elmore.

With this win, Marshall reaches their 12th win in Conference USA for the first time since joining the league. The Herd earned a 3-seed in the conference tournament, its highest seeding ever, and will face the winner of the 6 UTEP/11 FIU game on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

Casey covers Marshall basketball for MFST. You can follow him on twitter @wxmozz

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