Marshall women sting the Hornets
HUNTINGTON - Marshall University women’s basketball head coach Tony Kemper started his post-game press conference Saturday by saying his team still has plenty to work on as it enters conference play.
However, it’s always easier to learn lessons when a team gets a win.
Marshall used a strong second quarter to jump out to a big lead before holding off a Delaware State University rally attempt in a 75-63 win in the final non-conference game of the season Saturday afternoon in Cam Henderson Center.
“I thought we came out fairly ready to play and energized, and that’s a good thing,” Kemper said. “Our second quarter was very good. We just have to learn to string it together for longer periods.”
One aspect that stayed pretty consistent throughout was Marshall’s defense, which forced the poor-shooting Hornets into several tough looks in building a 27-point lead in the third quarter.
With the big lead, Marshall (6-7) relaxed a bit on defense and the Hornets cut into the advantage, whittling the deficit to 12 following a 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter.
“There’s a lot of stretches that I really enjoy seeing us play,” Kemper said. “And, there’s a lot of stretches that if I had hair, I’d pull it out.”
The catalyst for Delaware State (2-8) was NaJai Pollard, who came into the game as the fifth-leading scorer in NCAA Division I with a 24.3 average. Pollard finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds and had 21 points and 12 rebounds after halftime.
“I thought we did a good job on her in the first half, and then we just let her roam around and do her thing in the second,” Kemper said. “She was very, very good, and she’s averaging 25 a game, so we aren’t the first people she’s done that to.”
Balance was the difference in the game for both sides.
Marshall had one of its more balanced offensive efforts with six players scoring at least nine points, including a pair of key performances from off the bench by Taylor Pearson and Kia Sivils.
Pearson had 10 points and six rebounds while adding many energy plays while Sivils added nine points - all coming in a three-minute stretch of the third quarter - when the Herd increased its lead to its largest margin.
“Starting the season, I wanted to figure out my role on the team and then, with a bunch of meetings I had with coach, he just told me energy is an area that we seem to lack. ...,” Pearson said. “I just took that upon myself to bring it as often as I can.”
Energy for the Herd came on the defensive end early in the contest as Marshall forced several turnovers and converted those into points during a second quarter. Marshall led 39-22 at halftime. Delaware State did not have a field goal for more than six minutes until Lanayjha Ashe banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer to set the halftime score.
Marshall’s balanced attack was led by Shayna Gore, who scored 13 of her 16 in the first half after starting the game 5-for-6 shooting from the field.
Khadaijia Brooks nearly notched a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds while Ashley Saintigene added 10 points. Brooks led a strong rebounding effort for the Herd that had a 54-42 advantage on the backboards. That margin included 25 offensive rebounds.