Herd home for CIT finals
HUNTINGTON — Homecourt advantage could serve the Marshall Thundering Herd well in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship game.
The home crowd of 4,122 spectators cheered loud, long and often Tuesday night in Cam Henderson Center when the Marshall men’s basketball team won against Hampton University, 80-78, in the CIT semifinals.
“They (fans) were big,” Marshall guard Jon Elmore said. “I remember one time everybody was clapping and I was like ‘It’s rocking in here.’
“It’s tough on teams when we pack this place up and it gets loud in here.”
Marshall fans were lined up at the ticket windows Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of seeing another game.
Wisconsin Green Bay (21-16) is at Marshall (22-14) for the CIT finals at 7 p.m. Thursday and the game won’t be televised as originally thought.
The only ways to see it are buying tickets or watching the live stream on www.watchcit.com.
The Herd is playing just its second game ever in the month of April and gunning for its second championship in a national tournament. Way back in 1947 legendary Marshall coach Cam Henderson led the team to the small-college NAIB crown in Kansas City, Missouri. A few years later the NAIB transformed into the NAIA.
Some outsiders questioned playing in the CIT as taking a step back from last season’s
NCAA Tournament second-round appearance, but the Herd isn’t seeing it like that. Elmore and senior C.J. Burks are adding to their career records and statistics, young players are getting more experience with extra practices and games and the fans are being treated to a good show.
“It’s cool,” Elmore said about the CIT experience. “It’s a good feeling. A lot of guys on this team legitimately love and like playing basketball. Going out and lacing it up with these guys under the lights, having the fans here, playing real games, I don’t think you can beat it.”
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni jokingly said he was hoping the other Tuesday semifinal contest lasted past midnight so the team traveling to play the Herd on short notice would be tired, and it almost happened.
Green Bay needed a jump shot at home from 6-foot-6 junior guard Sandy Cohen III with 1.5 seconds left in overtime to get past Texas Southern (24-14), 87-86. Cohen finished with 23 points and became a 1,000-point career scorer in the process.
For the umpteenth time this season Marshall faces an opponent that is a mirror image of itself.
Green Bay averages 81.6 points and allows 79.5 while Marshall scores 80.2 and gives up 80.8. The Phoenix makes eight 3-point shots per game and the Herd connects on 10. The Phoenix has a minus-2.6 rebounding margin compared to Marshall’s minus-8.3.
“They play just like we play,” D’Antoni said. “They don’t have a big man, but they have good size with three 6-6 guys, a 6-7 and a 6-2.”
Elmore produced 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists against the Hampton Pirates (18-17) out of the Big South Conference. He averages 20.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists. The 6-3 senior from Charleston padded his Marshall and Conference USA career record totals to 2,619 points and 780 assists.
Burks, a 6-4 guard, netted 17 points and is fifth in the Marshall career records with 1,864. His playing time against Hampton was limited to 22 minutes because of foul trouble and he recovered to make all six of his free throw attempts in the final 2:22, including four in the last 34 seconds.
“I just try to do whatever the team needs,” said Burks, a Martinsburg, West Virginia native. “I sat out a great bit of the game. The team needed me in some areas, so I just tried to go out there and compete. I just know we needed those free throws.”
Marshall freshman forward Taevion Kinsey scores 10.2 per game and 6-9 sophomore forward Jannson Williams follows with 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 69 blocked shots.
Green Bay is a Horizon League member coached by Linc Darner in his fourth season after previous head coach jobs at St. Joseph and Florida Southern.
Cohen’s 17.6 points and 6.4 rebounds lead the Phoenix and 6-2 junior JayQuan McCloud who missed Tuesday’s game because of a family emergency, adds 13.8 points. ShanQuan “Tank” Hemphill is a 6-6 junior scoring 11.5 points and grabbing 5.4 rebounds. Trevian Bell (6-7 sophomore) came from off the bench against Texas Southern for a career-high 21 points on a 5.9 average.
Wright State beat Green Bay in the Horizon League semifinals (66-54). The Phoenix recovered to win a CIT game at East Tennessee State (102-94) before going home to blast FIU from C-USA (98-68) and win against Cal State Bakersfield (80-65).
GREEN BAY (21-16) AT MARSHALL (22-14)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
WHEN: Cam Henderson Center, Huntington
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM