HUNTINGTON - In a holiday season in which the Marshall basketball team has been mired in ugly games, the Thundering Herd finally reached back and inflicted a larger dose of ugliness, at Savannah State's expense.
The Herd overcame an early eight-point deficit, 19 turnovers and another night of rough shooting to pull away from the Tigers 64-48. A crowd announced at 5,316 watched at Cam Henderson Center, as Marshall forced 16 turnovers held the visitors to 33.3 percent shooting and blanked them from the 3-point line.
Home fans groaned early, even emitting a boo or two, but coach Tom Herrion liked a lot of what he saw when his team didn't have the ball.
"That was as consistent of 40 minutes of defense that we've played all season, in my opinion, two halves," Herrion said. "We did a good job bottling them up, would have like to have stretched that rebound margin out a little bit [41-38]; we've got to continue to address that.
"Good win for our kids coming out of exams. They've had a great attitude, so I'm happy for them."
Marshall (7-5) hounded the Tigers with 1-2-2 and 2-2-1 variations of the press, aiming for turnovers, or at least to take away time in the halfcourt offense. That became easier to do when the Herd made more shots in the second half, 9 of 19 from the floor.
D.D. Scarver led the scoring with 18 points, hitting three 3-point goals in six tries. As is increasingly the case, his 3-pointers come at critical times and seem to turn momentum the Herd's way more forcefully.
Take the first half, for instance.
The Herd fell behind 14-6, starting the game 3 for 11 with four turnovers. It took to the halfway mark to tie the game at 16, and the game was knotted again at 18 with 8:04 to go.
Nigel Spikes made the first of two free throws, but missed the second. Dennis Tinnon fought for the rebound, tossed it out to Scarver, who fired it in from the arc.
The Tigers misfired on their next possession and Tinnon snagged another rebound and started the fast break. Scarver hit the brakes at the 3-point line, took the pass from Tinnon and canned it. All of a sudden, the Herd was up 25-18.
Scarver's last 3-pointer came toward the end of an 11-1 run, a six-minute stretch that could have been more devastating had the Herd not missed five free throws. Like his first one, it came off an offensive rebound of a missed free throw, this time by Spikes. Scarver faked once, slid along the arc and fired to give MU a 52-40 lead with 3:03 left.
"That's where the floor opened up - it was either off misses or against [Savannah's] pressure," Herrion said. "We made two great kickouts to him. We want him to shoot open shots.
"He's a deadly catch-and-shoot guy. When he puts it on the floor, I close my eyes, I cringe sometimes. He's into the Curly Neal thing, the Harlem Globetrotters, whirly-dirly dribble craze. But when he catches and his feet are set, he's as good as any in the country, in my opinion."
Savannah State, now 5-7 against a rough schedule, got no closer.