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MU lost game at foul line

February 3, 2019 GMT

There’s no point in sugarcoating, spin doctoring or searching for a silver lining.

This loss hurt.

A lot.

A whole lot.

When Marshall University lost to UTSA, 116-106, in overtime Saturday night, it was a tough defeat to swallow.

“This one hurts,” said Jon Elmore, Marshall’s star point guard who scored 29 points, dealt eight assists and sent the game into overtime with a clutch 3-pointer.

“We started slow. We came back and led at halftime. We let them get away from us. We came back. We sent it into overtime. And, then, we couldn’t stop them in overtime. “It doesn’t feel good.” What’s worse, this victory improved UTSA’s record to 7-3 in Conference USA, while Marshall’s record dropped to 6-4. Considering five teams were bunched at the top of the C-USA standing, this was a damaging loss for Marshall.

“This one was for first place,” said Elmore quietly. “And we lost it at home. That’s tough to swallow.”

Another aspect of this loss that requires a tracheotomy is where the Thundering Herd lost the game. And I’m not referring to the Cam Henderson Center.

Marshall lost at the foul line.

UTSA made 28 of 35 free throws, while Marshall was 9 for 15 at the line. That’s a differential of 19 points.

Ahem — 19 points in an overtime game.

“That’s huge,” said Elmore, after he was informed of the statistic. “That’s the difference in the game.”

Indeed.

Marshall had more field goals (42 to 39) and made more 3-pointers (13 to 10), but it didn’t matter because of UTSA’s overwhelming 19-point advantage at the foul line.

“Tough loss, man,” said Marshall coach Danny D’Antoni, during his postgame news conference. “I thought we played great defense. They just shot the lights out of it.”

That was particularly true for UTSA guard Keaton Wallace, who didn’t seem to miss a single shot down the stretch or in overtime. Wallace finished with 45 points on 15-of-24 shooting from the floor, including 4 for 9 from behind the arc, and 11 of 12 from the foul line.

What also makes this defeat so stinging is how hard Marshall fought during the final seconds of regulation.

Rondale Watson got loose for a slam dunk that narrowed Marshall’s deficit to 90-88 with 39 seconds remaining. Then, Jarrod West made a steal and was fouled but missed the front end of the bonus.

Then, with nine seconds remaining, West spotted up in the left corner — just like he did for his game-winning 3-pointer at Old Dominion — but this time his trey went down inside the iron and rimmed out.

That set up Elmore’s heroics.

With four seconds remaining and Marshall trailing 91-88, the senior guard swished a high-arcing 3-pointer just left of the circle and, amazing enough, was fouled. Then, he calmly went to the foul line and made the gametying foul shot.

But it all went for naught when UTSA blew out Marshall 24-14 in the overtime period.

“The kids played hard,” said a subdued D’Antoni. “But it’s a game of made shots. They made ’em, we didn’t.” Especially at the foul line. And that’s tough to swallow.

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