And the Thunder rolls. Marshall showed little fatigue after its triple-overtime, marathon Wednesday and advanced to the Conference USA tournament finals with a big win over No. 2 seed Southern Mississippi, 73-62.
On a day the Thundering Herd's dominant rebounding ability was thwarted by the Golden Eagles, the Herd made up for it by shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 9-for-17 from beyond the arc. Even more importantly, the Herd had one of their best free-throw shooting performances of the year.
Senior point guard Damier Pitts was the star for Marshall and finished the game with 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting and five rebounds. Pitts proved clutch for the Herd by going 6-for-6 from the foul line.
DeAndre Kane—who played in 54 of 55 minutes during the triple-overtime slugfest with Tulsa—finished with 14 points and seven assists.
Dennis Tinnon—himself having played in 50 of the 55 minutes in the previous day's game—pulled down 13 rebounds to go with 10 points.
The Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi beat the Thundering Herd on rebounds, 35-34, but throughout the game the bigs of Marshall—Tinnon, Goff and Spikes—proved capable of blocking and altering shots that were taken in the painted area.
The points scored off 16 Herd turnovers were one of the few statistical highlights for Southern Miss and kept the game close, even though it shot 34 percent from the field, 22 percent from the three-point line and 57 percent from the charity stripe.
Angelo Johnson led Southern Miss with 24 points off 11-for-17 shooting from the field. Many of his points came in the paint after using his quickness to get around the defense of Damier Pitts, who was nursing a sore knee.
Kentucky transfer Darnell Dodson contributed in a big way off the bench with 13 points and six rebounds.
Jonathan Mills—junior forward out of Chicago—was scoreless for Southern Miss after going for 17 against the Thundering Herd in the regular-season finale. The best interior player for the Golden Eagles was ineffective after picking up an injury to his arm that kept him out of the game for all but 16 minutes.
This was the first time in the Conference USA semifinals. They will play the winner of the second semifinal match between Memphis and Central Florida.
The Thundering Herd almost certainly need a win in the conference tournament final if they hope to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. Anything less than the automatic berth awarded through a conference title might relegate Marshall to the NIT.
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