Written by Justin Prince.
This time was supposed to be different.
The Marshall men’s basketball team was at home on the court of the Cam Henderson Center, the nation’s leading shot blocker Adjin Penava was in the lineup.
The outcome however, was the same.
The Thundering Herd fought hard to erase a double-digit second half deficit only to lose in the games final moments to the Old Dominion Monarchs 84-79. The game was eerily similar to the team’s first meeting when ODU claimed an 82-76 victory over the Herd.
Marshall never trailed by quite as many as it did in that meeting but sloppy play to open up the second half by the Herd offense allowed to Monarchs to turn its one point half time lead into an 11 point advantage. The Herd managed to recover and even took a 75-74 lead with 3:27 to play, but Marshall couldn’t hang on.
It just took the Herd too much energy to make up the ground.
Point guard Jon Elmore, who had 24 points and 11 assists missed his final four shots from the floor including a pair of three-pointers that were badly short. C.J. Burks who also had 24 points for Marshall missed a pair of layups in that span as the Herd ran out of gas and the Monarchs claimed the win.
ODU is now 22-5 on the season and 13-2 in Conference USA while Marshall drops to 19-9 overall and 10-5 in league action.
The loss leaves the Herd clinging to the crucial fourth place spot as the UTSA Roadrunners moved to within one game of Marshall with three games remaining. The top four regular season finishers will receive a bye in the opening round of the CUSA tournament next month.
The Roadrunners have a decidedly easier schedule as the Herd gets bottom feeder Charlotte on Saturday night before wrapping the season up with road trips to UAB, a preseason league favorite and nationally ranked Middle Tennessee.
UTSA wraps things up with middle of the pack Louisiana Tech before making visits to North Texas and lowly Rice.
If the Herd and Roadrunners finish with identical conference records UTSA would hold the tiebreaker over Marshall due to its four-point victory against the Herd on February 1.
Penava added 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots for the Herd in its loss Thursday night, while the Monarchs were lead by Brandon Stith’s double-double. Stith poured in 21 points and grabbed 12 boards as ODU won its sixth in a row.
The Monarchs are CUSA’s top defensive team while Marshall is the league’s top offensive team. ODU hadn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 69 points since the Herd scored 77 in its loss earlier this month.
Marshall outshot the Monarchs 54.5 percent to 43.1 percent but thanks to 19 Herd turnovers and a 17-5 edge in offensive rebounds ODU shot the ball 72 times. Marshall managed just 55 shot attempts.
The Herd is back at the Henderson Center on Saturday to take on Charlotte at 7 p.m. eastern time.