HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - For some reason, Tulsa's Lew Evans fouled, barked to the officials about it and was whistled for a technical foul, sending him out with five fouls.
For some reason, Marshall's Ryan Taylor matched the ignominious feat two minutes later. Foul, complain, technical, fourth and fifth fouls, see ya. With 9:53 left and the Thundering Herd up by three points, no less.
The Herd, still winless in Conference USA, paid a dear price Saturday afternoon. That 9:53 was plenty long enough for Tulsa to take over, which it did with the next 10 minutes and a blistering 27-7 finish. The final count was 69-52, demoralizing the 3,000 or so at Cam Henderson Center.
In a welcome reversal of its 80-65 loss Thursday against North Texas, Marshall (6-13, 0-4 C-USA) led by as many as nine points and carried a 25-20 advantage to the locker room at halftime. Then, in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Herd never trailed.
But Marshall unraveled after Taylor's ill-advised exit and the implosion that followed. Shot selection became random, and the Herd missed 12 of its last 14. Conversely, the Golden Hurricane (8-10, 3-1) hit 6 of 11 from the floor and 10 of 12 from the line.
The Herd doesn't settle merely for snatching defeat from the grip of victory. No, it loses games in much grander style.
"We melted. We melted," said Herd coach Tom Herrion. "We hit adversity, it hits us right in the face, we caved in as a group. No one feels worse than Ryan right now. Clearly an extremely poor decision in the timing, but you've got to respond, you've got to rally and we didn't do it.
"We caved in and crumbled, which is not a good feeling."
Taylor, the 6-foot-5 freshman, has had trouble staying on the floor as it is. This was his seventh disqualification and the sixth time he has been limited to 20 or fewer minutes. In fact, his 11 fruitless minutes Saturday were a career-low.
In his absence, Chris Thomas reasserted himself, scoring a team-high 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Kareem Canty had 12 points and nine assists, though he clanked his way to 4 of 18 from the floor.
Clanking was a common theme for the Herd in its Thursday-Friday home stand. Marshall shot 30.8 percent Thursday against North Texas and 32.8 percent on Saturday.
That meant the Herd had to bank on its defense to win the game. In the first half, that was solid in allowing the Hurricane to shoot just 25 percent, but that skyrocketed to 61.5 percent in the second half, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range.
"In the first half, we guarded our tails off," Herrion said. "We're struggling offensively, but it's OK to be [ahead] 25-20, ugly. Our defense leaves us in the second half, they shoot an astronomical number, score 49 in the second half.
"Again, no level of consistency on the defensive end of the floor. I thought we contributed to that by panicking and shooting the ball quick and taking bad shots in that stretch. Poor combination."
Marshall led 34-26 with 15:41 left, but Tulsa took a bit over three minutes to tie it at 36. It was also tied at 40 and 42, and then the Herd took the lead for the last time with a DeVince Boykins 3-pointer.
Then Taylor committed his foul/technical, giving the Hurricane two free throws and possession. Woodard took care of the foul shots, then sank a 3-point try nine seconds later. After a Canty miss, Pat Swilling hit a 3 to make it 50-45, and D'Andre Wright hit two free throws for a 52-45 Tulsa lead with 7:53 left.
Marshall never got closer than five points, and the lead shot quickly into double digits and stayed there the final 3:14.
So what was the difference, according to Tulsa coach Danny Manning?
"I'd just tell them to make their damn shots, I guess," Manning joked. "When you don't shoot the ball well, we talk about, as a team, turning down good looks and getting great looks. We had some guys do that, and it was contagious and we started getting a lot of open shots.
"Then we started doing a better job of setting picks and sacrificing for one another, the team."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
TULSA 69, MARSHALL 52
Tulsa (8-10, 3-1)
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