HUNTINGTON - Marshall wasn't going to be denied a victory Saturday afternoon.
The Thundering Herd, which had suffered two agonizingly close overtime losses in the past week, took control about midway through the opening half behind Elijah Pittman's sharp shooting en route to a 96-78 win over the University of North Carolina Wilmington. A paid crowd of 4,718 attended the non-conference matchup at the Henderson Center.
The Thundering Herd (3-2) lost its last two games in overtime at Morehead State (102-94) last Sunday and at home Thursday to Stephen F. Austin (80-73).
"A terrific bounce back,'' said Marshall coach Tom Herrion. "No mistake about that. I think this group shows even more things that continue to excite me about their makeup and their personality.
"We had a tough week, two disheartening losses. We had great energy and focus and great offensive efficiency. We still have areas where we have to get better. We're starting to learn a little bit.''
Pittman, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior from Covington, Ky., knocked down eight 3-pointers for a game-high 35 points on 13-of-21 shooting Saturday. Pittman hit six 3s and turned in 22 points by halftime to pace the Herd to a 48-29 lead.
"We really came out with the mindset this is a 40-minute game and we've got to finish,'' said Pittman. "No matter what we do in the first half, we've got to play the other half. I feel like we did better than the last two [games]. We have way more to improve on.''
UNCW (3-4) modestly cut into the Herd's lead early in the second half, slimming its deficit to 11 points (54-43), but Marshall never let its advantage dip any lower the rest of the way.
Pittman put the exclamation on the much-needed win with a neat driving one-handed dunk with 58.3 seconds to go, then took a feed under the basket for an easy jam with 43.1 seconds left.
"We tried everything defensively and we didn't have much of an answer,'' UNCW coach Buzz Peterson said of Pittman's hot shooting. "We were very undisciplined. We got caught up in Marshall's style of play. They played with much more energy.''
Marshall freshman guard Kareem Canty added 19 points on 9-of-15 accuracy with 10 assists, sophomore guard Chris Thomas chipped in 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and junior forward Ryan Taylor had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Herd shot 59 percent from the floor and was nearly as good from long range, sinking 11 of 19 for a 57.9- percent clip on 3s. The Herd again struggled at the foul line, sinking just 56.5 percent (13 of 23).
Junior forward Addison Spruill's 19 points paced four players in double figures for the Seahawks.
Craig Ponder, a former standout at Bluefield High School, started for UNCW and finished with two points, two assists and one rebound in 12 minutes. The redshirt sophomore played in all 30 games, including 24 starts, for the Seahawks last season and was the third-leading scorer at 8.5 points per game. ... Marshall hosts Western Kentucky at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Hilltoppers, who will join Conference USA next year, have advanced to the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.
FG FT Reb
Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS
Reybold 15 0-2 1-2 1-4 1 3 1
Williams 32 7-13 4-4 2-7 0 1 18
Ponder 12 1-5 0-0 0-1 2 2 2
Eblen 32 5-8 0-2 0-3 4 2 10
Spruill 26 8-14 3-3 3-5 1 2 19
Dixon 12 1-2 0-0 0-2 0 2 2
Jackson 24 4-7 3-3 0-1 0 1 11