Tale of Two Halves: Marshall Thundering Herd Beat Houston Cougars 66-58

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Tale of Two Halves: Marshall Thundering Herd Beat Houston Cougars 66-58
Marshall forward Robert Goff drives to the basket against Houston during an NCAA college basketball game in Huntington, W.Va., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. Marshall defeated Houston 66-58. (AP Photo/The Herald-Dispatch, Sholten Singer)

In an absolute Jekyll and Hyde performance, the Marshall University Thundering Herd made up for a dismal first half by going on a 19-1 run to start the second half, dispatching the Houston Cougars 66-58 in Conference USA action. 

Senior point guard Damier Pitts led the Herd in scoring with 15 points. DeAndre Kane added 14 points and Dago Pena, who shot lights out from behind the arc in the second half, also added 14.

The star of the second half and arguably the player of the game, was backup center Nigel Spikes, who fired up the Herd faithful with two-monster blocks early in the second half—along with collecting 10 rebounds in only 17 minutes of total playing time.

In a woeful first half, the Thundering Herd only managed to put 23 points on the board on 10-for-32 shooting from the field (31.3 percent) and two-for-11 (18.2 percent) from the free throw line. DeAndre Kane led the Herd with 10 points at the half, but he also committed four turnovers in that stretch.

The only positives that could be taken into the locker room at half time were the final play of the half, where DeAndre Kane dumped the ball underneath to a wide-open Jamir Hanner for an easy slam dunk, and the fact that Houston was unable to capitalize—and put the game totally out of reach.

The Cougars managed only 31 points at the half. The dunk by Hanner seemingly set the tone for the second half to come.

Whether it was the good spirits brought about by the Hanner slam, or the motivational speech Marshall head coach Tom Herrion delivered in the locker room, the Thundering Herd came out firing on all cylinders to start the half—cutting the eight-point Houston lead to two in just over two minutes of play.

Marshall's Damier Pitts (3) fights past the defense of Houston's Joseph Young during an NCAA college basketball game in Huntington, W.Va., on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. Marshall defeated Houston 66-58. (AP Photo/The Herald-Dispatch, Sholten Singer)

It was at that point, when Nigel Spikes got the Cam Henderson Center rocking by sending Alandise Harris' (five points on two-for-four shooting) shot into the stands. Dennis Tinnon stole the inbound pass and sprinted up the court for a slam dunk and the foul, which only further fueled the frenzied home crowd.

After Houston collected the rebound from the failed three-point conversion, Harris once again tried to go baseline—only to have his shot rejected into the stands again by Nigel Spikes—in an exact copy of the previous possession. As the Marshall fans erupted, it appeared that Harris' own teammates were asking him what he was thinking attempting the same shot again.

By the 5:00 mark of the second half, the Thundering Herd had been on a 37-9 run and the lead was pushed to 21. The Cougars should be credited for never giving up, as they spent the final five minutes fouling and stopping the clock. They clawed their way to an eight-point deficit before the final buzzer. 

Marshall, who is eighth in the nation in rebounding (39.9), finished right at their season average by snagging 40 off of the glass—winning the battle of the boards on the night with Houston only collecting 35.

The Thundering Herd improves to 17-10 on the season and 8-5 in Conference USA. Houston falls 12-14 on the season and 4-9 during conference play.

Marshall faces off against the conference-leading Memphis Tigers on Saturday at home. Houston plays in-state rival Southern Methodist University on Saturday at home.

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