HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - By Tom Herrion's reckoning, Adonis Thomas got paid Saturday night at Cam Henderson Center and it was perfectly legal.
Thomas, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound sophomore swing man, set a career high with 23 points and tied his high of 10 rebounds as 22nd-ranked Memphis downed Herrion's Marshall team 71-59.
The crowd of 6,116 - no doubt held down by weather and two big-name concerts in Huntington - watched Thomas and the Tigers jump out to a 43-26 halftime lead, big enough to repel all MU rallies in the second half. Thomas scored 15 of his points and hauled down seven rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
That more than made up for a tough game by the Tigers' big men, two of whom fouled out.
"[Thomas] made a lot of money tonight," Herrion said. "He's a pro, best guy on the floor. Played like ... he was a McDonald's [All-American], and he played like that tonight. [He's] healthy, he's hurt us both games.
"He's been a streaky perimeter shooter, you know, [but] against Marshall the Kmart 'blue light' goes off and he knocks down shots."
Actually, he scored "only" 15 points in the Tigers' 73-72 win over the Herd three weeks earlier in Memphis. His combined line for the two games is quite shiny - 13 of 26 from the floor, 4 of 8 from 3-point range, 38 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
On a team loaded with weapons, he has hurt the Herd as much as anyone.
"He was hitting open shots," said Herd forward Dennis Tinnon. "Knocking down open 3s, which is expected. He did a good job of penetrating and hitting midranges, and he was getting his own rebounds, too, and stick-backs."
The Herd didn't help itself in the first half with 10 turnovers, an eight-rebound deficit and a dreadful string of 10 empty possessions. In that 5-minute, 38-second stretch, Marshall (11-14, 4-7 Conference USA) missed five field goals and two free throws and committed five turnovers.
The Tigers (21-3, 11-0) were well into a big run when the drought began, and it mounted to 24-3. That turned Marshall's early 10-3 lead into a 27-15 deficit and the hole kept getting deeper from there.
Marshall shot 33.3 percent in the half and allowed 14 points off 10 turnovers. The second-half shooting improved to 44 percent.
"We regroup at halftime and play like we need to play," Herrion said. "Playing down 17 against a team like that, a top-25 team, now you've got to play perfect, which we were for a while. ... The numbers speak for themselves: minus-8 on the glass in the first half, plus-4 in the second half. They shoot 51 and a half percent in the first half, 38 in the second half.
"We give up 43 in the first half, 28 in the second half. There's your game right there, and you can't have 20 turnovers at home."
The Herd scored the first eight points of the second half, and later cut the lead to 46-41 - and even did so with DeAndre Kane on the bench. Kane cramped up and sat out 3 minutes, his first rest after four straight 40-minute outings.
But Geron Johnson answered for Memphis with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and Thomas put back his own miss to make it 51-41. After two Kane free throws, Johnson put back his own miss and buried another 3-pointer on the fast break, putting the Tigers up 56-43 with 8:18 left.
From there, the Tigers easily cemented their 16th straight win overall, their 18th straight against Conference USA opponents and 11th straight "true" road win. Just to add the exclamation points in the final three minutes, Thomas scooped up a loose ball that rolled up the lane to him and banked a shot off the glass, drawing a foul on Kane along the way.
Afterward, Kane could only shake his head over that one. Tinnon, who expressed his eagerness to see the Tigers again in the Conference USA tournament, agonized over not getting the loose ball.
"Yeah, 50-50 [ball.] We need to come away with those all the time," Tinnon said.
Tinnon shot 3 of 9 in the first half but recovered to score 15 points with 13 rebounds - his seventh double-double of the season and 17th of his two-year career. Kane and Elijah Pittman both scored 16 points, though Pittman hit just two of his 10 3-point attempts.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com or at twitter.com/dougsmock.
Memphis 79, Marshall 51
MEMPHIS (22-3, 11-0 C-USA)
M FG FT R A P
Adonis Thomas 35 9-17 3-4 10 0 23