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Herd plays small-ball to beat 49ers

January 12, 2018

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marshall’s Thundering Herd was the little team that could Thursday night.

Marshall used a four-guard lineup for long stretches and even went to a five-guard look in the final minutes of a 91-83 men’s basketball road victory against Charlotte in half-full Halton Arena where the attendance of 4,640 spectators included a good show of support for the visitors. Six-foot-9 Ajdin Penava was in uniform but didn’t play because of an ankle sprain and Herd head coach Dan D’Antoni was forced to shuffle the deck some more when 6-8 Jannson Williams and 6-6 Phil Bledsoe got in foul trouble.

“For this game, I thought the little guards did a great job,” D’Antoni said.

Junior guard C.J. Burks pumped in 32 points (19 after halftime) to establish a career high. Junior guard Rondale Watson scored 20 (15 in the second half) and junior guard Jon Elmore, the Conference USA leader coming in with a 23.2 average, followed with 19.

Marshall, 12-5 for the season and 3-1 in C-USA, nursed a 40-38 lead at halftime.

Then Burks went to work with 12 of his points in the first 3:43 of the second period when Marshall used a 16-6 spree that stretched the advantage to 56-44 with more than 16 minutes left in the game. Burks connected on 12 of 17 shots, was 4 for 7 shooting 3-pointers and made all four of his foul shots. He also had seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

“He’s a scoring machine,” D’Antoni said. “He would have had 50 points if he’d made his layups in the first half.”

Marshall needed about every point it could muster to hold off Charlotte junior guard Jon Davis, who had a 38-point burst,

six rebounds and four assists. Jailan Haslem of the 49ers, a 6-10 junior, turned in a 10-point, 11-rebound performance.

After Charlotte (5-10, 1-3) pulled within 56-53 with 14:04 remaining, Burks fired in a 3-pointer and Watson went on a personal run of eight consecutive Marshall points that put the Herd ahead 67-57 at 11:23.

Elmore’s free throw gave Marshall its biggest lead, 79-65, with 6:22 left, but Charlotte battled back again. Andrien White’s 3-pointer pulled the 49ers within 79-74 and there was still 3:29 to play. Burks quieted the 49ers with a jump shot then fed Watson for a three-point play and 84-74 cushion with 1:56 to go.

Williams fouled out at 1:45 and D’Antoni used five guards for the rest of the night.

Ot Elmore, a senior guard and Jon Elmore’s older brother, put in 15 minutes of court time in the longest stint of his Marshall career. Ot Elmore didn’t score, but had two assists and three rebounds. Sophomore forward Phil Bledsoe (six points, five rebounds) played for 16 minutes and helped the Herd build a 26-5 edge in bench points.

“We had to scramble a little bit with different lineups,” D’Antoni said.

Marshall travels Friday from Charlotte to Norfolk, Virginia, for a 7 p.m. Saturday game against Old Dominion (12-4, 3-1). Western Kentucky (12-5, 4-0) won Thursday at Old Dominion, 75-68.

D’Antoni is hoping to have Penava back in action Saturday. The Bosnian averages 16.7 points and 9.1 rebounds while leading the nation with 76 blocked shots and 4.75 blocks per game.

Next game

MARSHALL (12-5, 3-1) at OLD DOMINION (12-4, 3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Va.

TV: ESPN3.com

Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM

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