HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Perhaps Marshall didn't follow the ultimate recipe to victory Thursday night over Florida International, but several ingredients worked together quite nicely.
Tamron Manning kept the Thundering Herd alive, well and tied with 10 first-half points. Chris Thomas took over in the first five minutes in the second half, carving up the FIU zone for 10 of his team-high 19 points in that span.
Then Kareem Canty, scoreless and almost shotless in the first 27 minutes, popped in a quick 10 points to help the Herd separate from the Panthers midway through the second half. Throw in Ryan Taylor's 14 points, a tightened zone defense and 16-of-19 foul shooting, and the Herd scored an 80-68 victory.
Before a crowd announced at 4,551 at Cam Henderson Center, the Herd (8-14, 2-5) won its first Conference USA home game of the season, and its second in the last three games overall.
The Herd allowed FIU's Tymell Murphy to score 29 points, a season high in C-USA league play, but 17 of those came in the first half. Murphy had to fight for his points afterward, and the Panthers shot just 40.6 percent in the second half.
"In the first half we played the zone, and we got extended," said MU coach Tom Herrion. "We shrunk it in the second half, where we made guys play side-to-side rather than playing downhill and playing gaps. Good adjustment, our kids listened, we made some adjustments in the zone and it was very effective for us."
Indeed, there were adjustments needed after the Herd settled for a 34-all tie at the half. MU surged from a 15-9 deficit to a 31-24 lead, but the Panthers leveled the contest with a 10-3 run.
The Herd shot just 41.4 percent in the half, but Manning's two 3-pointers helped make that look better.
"Phenomal. Terrific," Herrion said of the sophomore. "He's put a lot of time in, I'm glad to see him reap some the benefits. He's been in the gym a lot, working on his shot. I don't know if he worked on that free-throw airball, but he's been working a lot. He and DeVince [Boykins] have improved in their shooting the last couple of weeks, so we've got to continue to do that.
"Ryan was Ryan to a certain extent. And Chris really hurt their zone at times. When he has patience - which is a word that he does not like to hear - and he backs off of some of those 3-balls ... but when he lets the shots come in the offense, he is really effective."
As nice as Thomas' penetrating baskets were, FIU pretty much answered them all. The margin never exceeded two the first 91/2 minutes, as there were seven ties and six lead changes.
The sixth change - the 12th for the full game - came on Canty's second 3-pointer, taken with no resistance. Manning flashed to the rim to score off a Cheikh Sane pass and Canty fed Boykins on a fast break, giving the Herd a 58-53 lead with 9:45 left.
FIU cut that lead to three just twice, but the Herd answered both times - first, with a Canty layup that made it 60-55, and later with a Taylor 3-pointer that gave the Herd a 63-57 advantage with 4:51 left.
The Herd maintained that lead with efficient offense (60.9 percent second half) and free-throw shooting - 7 of 8 in the final 1:36. Believe it or not, MU is hitting 68.9 percent in seven conference games.
In between those trips to the line, there were a few notable Herd baskets. Herrion offered one example:
"[TyQuane] Goard's slip-action [basket] on an [inbounds] play. Huge," Herrion said. "Twenty-two seconds left on the shot clock out of that under-4 media timeout, execution. You keep it a two-, three-, four-possession game, it's hard for them to get back in it."
Canty finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season. Manning finished with 15 and Taylor 14, and the Herd finished at 50.9 percent from the field.
Murphy was 12 of 19 from the floor but was just 5 of 9 in the second half, 1 of 5 from 3-point range. Those were telling numbers, especially after grinding through MU's defense for a 7-of-10 first half.
"The zone slowed him down," said FIU coach Anthony Evans. "Normally, he can get into the middle of the zone but they kind of clogged it up, paid more attention to him, so he was on the perimeter. And then he started settling for jump shots instead of attacking, moving in the zone trying to find open spots."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
MARSHALL 80, FIU 68
Florida International (11-10, 3-3)
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