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March 8, 2013

Final Regular Season Game: ECU Preview

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He averages 1.4 points in 11 minutes per game.

He's made exactly one start in Conference USA play.

He may also be Marshall's new found X-Factor.

The Herd travels to ECU to conclude a disappointing regular season Saturday. Marshall could finish anywhere between seven and 10 in the CUSA seeds heading into next week's tournament in Tulsa.

But as March rolled around, the same week as the Kentucky Sweet 16 state tournament no less, Tamron Manning flashed some offensive firepower in an 88-84 victory over Southern Miss.

The freshman guard gave Marshall offense off the bench, something it has lacked all year. He scored 12 points, including getting to the foul line and making all four attempts.

It was the same Manning-style of play that led Scott County High School to the Kentucky State Championship game last season. He knocked down shots (2-of-3 from 3-point range), he forced his way to the line, and became a presence on the offensive end.

He doesn't have the gaudy numbers of fellow Bluegrass State native Elijah Pittman (16.1 ppg), the shooting touch of D. D. Scarver (12.5 points per game), or the all-around game of DeAndre Kane (14.7 ppg, 4.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game), but Manning is in development. Those three juniors are the key to Marshall's success.

But Manning's spark off the bench helped lead Marshall to a first half flurry. In a game where both the Herd and Eagles played well, Marshall was better at the end of the contest. Part of the reason was Manning's play in the first half, keeping the Herd going in a game where there was no room for an offensive lull.

The night belonged to seniors Nigel Spikes, Rob Goff, and Dennis Tinnon, all of whom made key contributions to the victory. Pittman had 22 points and Scarver 19. However it was Manning's play that pushed Marshall over the top.

If Marshall is to make a Cinderella-like run in Tulsa, Manning is going to have to play a big part and do something he's struggled with so far this year: stay out of foul trouble.

Notes:

Marshall beat ECU, 77-56 in Huntington on January 19. The Herd led from start to finish, and had a 29-point lead at one point. Kane had 22 points in that contest, while Pittman had 19. Marshall blew out the Pirates despite shooting 10-of-23 from the foul line, a whopping 43.5 percent.

The Pirates beat the Herd in Greenville last season, a loss that very well may have kept Marshall from at least hosting an NIT game, and perhaps out of the NCAA Tournament.

Marshall has now defeated Southern Miss three of the last four meetings, and four of the last six. Southern Miss has already locked the No. 2 seed, and if Marshall can win Saturday at ECU, and then follow with an opening round C-USA Tournament victory, another Eagle-Herd matchup could be in the cards.

Southern Miss's Dwayne Davis scored 35 points against Marshall. His team shot 51 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. And lost.

Marshall has made 45 of 58 free throws in the last two games. That's good for 77 percent. Despite those gaudy numbers, the Herd is still under 60 percent from the line for the season.







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