HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Junior guard DeAndre Kane sank two clutch free throws with 21 seconds remaining in what would be the game-winning points in Marshall's 61-58 win over UNCW on Saturday at the Cam Henderson Center.
"It's a good way for us to learn to play against a team that is deliberate and patient," said head coach Tom Herrion. "And clearly, they put us in the grinder, and we found a way. It's a good win for us. We will take it for sure. We'll take it. A bad win is better than a good loss."
The Thundering Herd (5-3) trailed 58-57 with 1:20 remaining in the game. After a Kane turnover, the Herd still trailed by one with a minute left. UNCW (3-4) missed a layup, but got the rebound which forced Marshall to foul to regain possession of the ball. With just three fouls committed in the half, Marshall had to foul four more times to get into the bonus. After back-to-back fouls by D.D. Scarver, Jamir Hanner stole the inbounds pass with 27 seconds to play.
A foul by the Seahawks' Matt Wilson sent Kane to the free throw line, where he had been 3-of-7 in the game. After making both, putting the Herd ahead by one point, Kane's defensive pressure forced a turnover with four seconds to play. Two more free throws by D.D. Scarver gave Marshall a three-point cushion with about one second left.
"Really good players make really big plays," Herrion said of Kane. "He's made big free throws his whole life."
The Herd shot just 61.5 percent (16-of-26) from the free throw line, but made them when the game was on the line going 6-for-8 in the final five minutes.
The game was close all night with UNCW leading no more than five points and Marshall no more than eight. There were 16 lead changes and nine ties, including the halftime score at 28-28.
Kane finished the game with a team-high 16 points and finished 5-of-9 from the free throw line. He also added five assists, four rebounds, four steals and just two turnovers.
Senior center Nigel Spikes recorded his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds including a career-high nine offensive boards.
Scarver scored in double-figures for the fifth straight game with 12. He was 2-of-6 from three point range, both coming in the first five minutes of the game.
Junior forward Elijah Pittman went an efficient 4-for-5 from the field and finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
UNCW, which shot 58.3 percent from the field in the second half, finished the game at 46.4 percent. Marshall shot 30.8 percent in the second half and 36.4 percent for the contest.
Bluefield native Craig Ponder led the Seahawks with a game-high 26 points by going 11-of-16 from the field including 3-of-4 from three-point range.
"He played out of his mind," Herrion said. "He was terrific. He was one of the best guys on the floor. We didn't do a good job with him."
Marshall will next be in action on Wednesday at 7 p.m. when it faces West Virginia in the annual Capital Classic in Charleston.
Post Game Quotes
Marshall Head Coach Tom Herrion
We are always thrilled with a win. And I've said it: some of the adversity we've hit, and some other things. Nothing is coming easy to this group right now. And tonight was a perfect example of it. Give Wilmington credit. Give Craig Ponder credit. He played tremendous. You know, when you come home, you do one of two things. You either play really, really well which he did. He played out of his mind. Or you don't play particularly well. So give Ponder credit. We did a great job on [Keith] Rendleman and [Cedrick] Williams which was our biggest factor going into the game.
In all due respect, Craig Ponder was averaging two points a game. He shot 1-for-7 from three on the year. That's no disrespect. He played out of his mind. He was terrific. He was one of the best guys on the floor. We didn't do a good job with him.
For us, we're just so stagnant on offense but I think a lot is that we just can't finish anything. We can't finish anything. We have got to address that. We have got to be able to score around the basket. Stick-backs, layups, power layups. But we found a way. You know, you find a way. And I'm proud of my group. It's a great learning experience, and we know we're not playing very well on offense right now. I admit that. I've got to do a better job getting our guys into better positions offensively. But in the same breath, we had some guys make some big plays. Five out of six down the stretch from the foul line. Five out of six from the foul line. No doubt that those two were going down with Kane. No doubt. You can chuckle; you can roll your eyes. He made two winning plays. He makes two free throws, and then he makes a steal to seal it. You've got to find ways. You know, big play, Hanner comes in on that side out. We're in a foul situation because they're not in the bonus and the shot clock is off. We go with our pressure game against them on the side out and Hanner's in there with the deflection to the steal. We miss the layup and we get fouled to go to the line to go up one.
Little things. Little things. This group is resilient. They're finding ways. You know, we lost a game at the buzzer up in New York against South Dakota State. You've got to find ways, and we did. Defensively in the second half, I thought we gave up too many layups, shot a high percentage. But the one thing you give [Coach Peterson] credit for, again, we talk about styles of play. Look at our number of possessions per game. They shrunk the game tonight. They ran clock. They took the air out of the ball. They made us guard deep into the clock, and they shortened our number of possessions. It's a good way for us to learn to play against a team that is deliberate and patient. And clearly, they put us in the grinder, and we found a way. It's a good win for us. We will take it for sure. We'll take it. A bad win is better than a good loss.
On Kane's last two free throws
Really good players make really big plays. He's made big free throws his whole life. You think he has any more confidence?! Our best attributes are our worst attributes. For each one of you, for me, for those 15. Our best attributes are our worst. My emotion, my passion. He's a confident young man. Everybody believed he was going to make those. On the bench, on the court. I don't know about the other six thousand people. I don't know if they believed it, but we did.
On defense in the second half
Breakdowns. We had breakdowns. I said it, they shot a high percentage, they got too many layups, they drove it. So much of our preparation was Rendleman, Rendleman, Rendleman. No disrespect. They ran a couple of different things we hadn't seen but we didn't adjust well enough during the course of the second half. They ran ball screens, they ran some misdirection stuff. They got it to Ponder's strong hand a lot, to his left hand. And we didn't do a good job. He hit two threes out of the gate, and like I said, our scout was we'll eat threes early from him because he's not a consistent shooter, and he proved us wrong tonight.
On the defense on Rendleman
I thought it was terrific. We got in some foul trouble in the first half, but I thought the second half, it didn't hurt us. We've had guys in foul trouble. Trust me. Go look at the stats up in New York. We've had guys in foul trouble. Conversely, Spikes might have been the best post player on the floor because he wasn't in foul trouble. We did a great job on Rendleman; we did a very good job on Williams. That's the focus of their team. Tonight, Ponder coming out of nowhere to a certain extent. Those two big guys have been the focal point of their offense all season. And we did a very good job on them.
On Robert Goff's and DeVince Boykins' playing time
It's great for them to get their feet wet, especially for Boykins. He hasn't played in almost two years now, since high school. I think he was more surprised that I called his number in the second half, but I wanted to get him in the game. You've got to shake the rust off.
And Goff, kind of the same thing. He is so eager to get back in, and we've been understandably very patient with him, so it was just good to get him back. Now we have more bodies available to us.
Guard DeAndre Kane
How did it feel to make those free throws?
It felt good.I finally knocked down two free throws. Elijah (Pittman) told me to knock them down with confidence. It felt good to get the win and I finally knocked down two free throws.
Was it more of a grinder than Wednesday?
It was a tough one. Coach said all games aren't going to be pretty. It was an ugly game. We're still not there offensively. Everything is not together, we're not firing on all cylinders yet, but we'll get it together. It's going to take time. It's a bunch of new players. The game wasn't cute, but we came out with the victory, and we move on. We get ready for WVU on Wednesday.
Forward Elijah Pittman
The Seahawks shot better the second half. Why?
We were being lazy on defense and on number 23 (Craig Ponder).
UNCW Head Coach Buzz Peterson
On the game
That was quite a ball game. I thought both teams played fairly well. We were concerned with Marshall's offensive rebounding. Give Marshall a lot of credit for winning the game down the stretch. Craig (Ponder) did a nice job coming back. I knew he could do it. I wish we could have had the win for him.
Guard Craig Ponder
On coming back home
Coming back home in from of my family and friends, I came out with more confidence in this game.