HUNTINGTON - The 3-point dagger keeps cutting deeper and deeper for this Marshall team, which is about to suffer a 20-loss season.
This time, the opponent was Middle Tennessee, the shooter was Jaqawn Raymond and the details were even more excruciating for Thundering Herd fans.
With the game tied at 53, the Blue Raiders inbounded with 21.1 seconds left and just 3 seconds on the shot clock. They got the ball inbounds and worked it around to an open Raymond, who had hit four bombs to that point.
No. 5 was the killer, and the Herd couldn't answer at the other end. With that, Conference USA co-leader MTSU exited Cam Henderson Center a 56-53 victor.
Raymond followed the lead of Southern Mississippi's Neil Watson and Tulane's Jay Hook, who broke MU's hearts in back-to-back games. For another example, you can reach back into December, to the late 3-pointer by Arkansas State's Brandon Reed.
Those examples are no small part of the grim story that is the Herd's 9-19 season.
"It's like Rocky 1 or Rocky 2. You know, the other [Rocky] movies were awful," said Herd coach Tom Herrion. "You sit here and you feel like the guy, [Sylvester] Stallone telling the guy, 'Keep hitting me. Keep hitting me. C'mon, hit me more.' "
The latest punch allowed Middle Tennessee (21-7, 11-2 C-USA) to stay alive in the NCAA tournament bubble watch, and lifted the Raiders into first place all alone atop the conference. Former co-leader Texas-El Paso lost later Saturday at Southern Miss.
Marshall (3-10 C-USA) has, for all intents, clinched the fourth 20-loss season in program history. The Herd would have to win from here on out - including the Conference USA and NCAA tournaments - to avoid that fate.
When the Herd held a 49-42 lead late in this physical, let-'em-play contest, it looked as if it could beat anybody in C-USA. Down 27-25 at halftime, the Herd tied it at 40 and took a 42-40 lead on two TyQuane Goard baskets, and then stretched the lead to 47-40 on a 3-pointer and 2-pointer by Kareem Canty.
DeVince Boykins scored with a goaltending call for that 49-42 lead, with 6:17 left. At that point the Blue Raiders had suffered 18 turnovers and big weapons Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds had been held to nine points combined.
But Marshall botched the next five possessions, badly missing five shots and suffering a shot-clock violation. The Blue Raiders answered with three rapid-fire 3s, the first by Raymond and the next two by Hammonds.
Canty tied the game at 51 and at 53 with runners in the lane, but couldn't answer Raymond at the buzzer. Canty was out of time and options when he launched a well-guarded, off-balance 3 that fell well short.