Elmore torches UTEP for 44
HUNTINGTON — Jon Elmore averaged 12.0 points last week when the Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball team dropped all three of its games in a six-day stretch away from home.
Marshall was back at home Thursday night after getting a few days’ rest and not boarding any buses or planes. What a difference it made for the Herd in a 91-86 victory against UTEP in front of a Cam Henderson Center announced crowd of 5,765 spectators.
Elmore fired in 44 points in a career high game and moved into a second place tie with John Taft (1987-91) on the Marshall career scoring list with 2,332. Skip Henderson (1984-88) is the all-time leader with 2,574.
Teammates kept telling him to ‘Just be Jon,’ and that’s what the senior point guard from Charleston with a 19.0 scoring average said he did.
“I just felt good,” Elmore said. “My teammates did a good job putting me in good situations.
“I’m happy as can be right now to be honest.”
Head coach Dan D’Antoni said Elmore lived up to his nickname “Jonny Buckets.”
Marshall is 13-9 overall and 6-3 in Conference USA. UTEP slipped to a 7-13 season record and is 2-7 in conference games.
In other C-USA action Thursday, Old Dominion won at home against Louisiana Tech (72-61) and Western Kentucky was a home winner against UTSA (96-88 in overtime). Old Dominion leads the standings at 7-3 followed by North Texas, UTSA, UAB and Marshall all bunched at 6-3.
UTEP had a plus-19 rebound advantage and 27 second-chance points, but Marshall made up some of the difference by scoring 17 from the Miners’ committing 20 turnovers.
The Herd shot 46.3 percent overall and 37.9 percent (11 of 29) on 3-pointers.
“When we shoot 46 and 37 (percent) we’re pretty tough to beat,” D’Antoni said.
Herd senior guard C.J. Burks added 18 points while Jannson Williams, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward tossed in 11, collected five rebounds and blocked eight shots.
Efe Odigie of the Miners was hard for the Herd to handle inside with the 6-9, 280-pound freshman ringing up 22 points and grabbing 20 rebounds. Nigel Hawkins also scored 22 for UTEP.
Guarding the UTEP big man took a toll on Williams, who said he was forced out of the game for about three-plus minutes of the second half because his legs were cramping.
“That’s a big boy, a big ’ol boy,” Williams said.
Marshall and UTEP were tied at halftime 37-37.
Elmore scored the final seven points of the first half to pull Marshall even after UTEP had an eight-point edge with 3:43 left. He sank a 3-point shot and a two-point shot in the final minute after the Herd pressured Odigie into turnovers.
He scored 18 before halftime and finished with 26 more, including two 3-point shots that put the Herd ahead, 44-40, with 18:34 left in the contest.
Rondale Watson hit a pair of foul shots after coming out of a scramble with an offensive rebound that gave Marshall its biggest lead at 58-46 with 14:25 remaining. But, the Miners didn’t fold and pulled within 62-59 with more than 10 minutes to go.
UTEP put together a run of six points and Evan Gilyard’s free throws pulled the Miners ahead, 65-64, with 8:57 remaining.
Seven second later after referee Gary Maxwell ejected a man sitting in the VIP seats at courtside Marshall grabbed the lead back on a Burks baseline move for a basket and a free throw.
Odigie’s offensive rebound and layup kept the Miners within 78-76 with about five minutes left. Odigie grabbed another offensive rebound before being called for traveling at about the one-minute mark.
Elmore finished his night by connecting on five foul shots in the final 35 seconds.
“Jon was ‘Jonny Buckets’ again,” D’Antoni said.