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Chuck Landon: Seeing was believing in Herd’s loss

December 9, 2018 GMT

If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.

That sentence, that emotion, that incredulity echoed through my mind at least four times during Marshall University’s riveting yet discouraging 75-74 overtime loss to Toledo before 6,232 bitterly disappointed fans Saturday in the Cam Henderson Center.

The first time was midway through the first half.

With 17:14 remaining, Marshall’s Rondale Watson scored on a fast-break layup to narrow Toledo’s lead to 9-4. Then, with 10:56 left in the half, MU’s Iran Bennett made a foul shot to make the score 20-5 in Toledo’s favor.

What happened during the 6:18 time span between those two Marshall scores?

Absolutely nothing.

Marshall went 6:18 without scoring a single point. Imagine a team as gifted with shooters, gifted with prowess, gifted with coaching going scoreless for that long.

If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Then, after trailing 41-23 at halftime and appearing dead in the water, Marshall inexplicably made a 13-1 run to begin the second half. Who led the charge? Who else? Star senior guard Jon Elmore, who scored only four points in the first half.

Elmore started the half by nailing a long 3-pointer, and then, 33 seconds later, he knocked down another trey. Another 35 seconds later, Elmore scored on a driving layup.

The next thing the shocked Rockets knew, Elmore was nailing another 3-pointer with 9:11 remaining and following it with a swished trey from the left corner only 44 seconds later to pull Marshall within two points at 53-51.

Then it happened.

Watson scored on a layup off an assist from Elmore to give Marshall its first lead of the game, 57-55, with 5:38 remaining.

After seeing the level of indecisiveness, second-guessing and hesitation offensively in the first half, this resurrection was spellbinding.

If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Then, as the second half continued, I began to notice a distinct trend. The team shooting on the east basket of the Cam was far more successful than the team shooting on the west end.

In the first half, Marshall was 10 for 28 (35.7 percent) from the floor on the west basket, including 1 of 11 on 3s (9.1 percent) and only 2 for 9 at the foul line (22.2 percent). But when the Herd changed ends it went 16 of 31 (51.6 percent) from the field, 4 of 10 on 3s (40 percent) and 6 for 8 on free throws (75 percent).

Guess what.

Toledo had similar results on the same rims.

For the game, the teams combined to shoot 29.3 percent from the floor, 15.4 percent on 3s and 42.0 percent on foul shots on the west end. But on the east end, the shooting was 48.4 percent from the floor, 37.5 percent on 3s and 80 percent on free throws.

So, is the rim crooked on the west end? I don’t know. But I do know if I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Finally, there was the manner in which regulation play ended. With the scored knotted at 65-65, Elmore pulled up at about 23 feet from the top of the key just before the final buzzer and was clearly and obviously fouled by Toledo’s Spencer Littleson.

Yet, as Elmore looked on in stunned disbelief, all three officials swallowed their whistles. It was quite possibly the worst no-call in the history of Cam Henderson Center.

If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.