Junior Dennis Tinnon's powerful performance helped send the Marshall senior class off in style, as they took down Southern Mississippi Saturday afternoon with a 79-75 win. That victory ended their regular season on a high note and provides some much needed momentum heading into the Conference USA tournament.
Tinnon led all scorers with 22 points—the second 20 point game of his career—on 8-for-11 shooting, he also came only one rebound short of a double-double.
All of Marshall's senior class finished their final game at the Cam Henderson Center in double figures—Damier Pitts and Shaquille Johnson had 13 apiece and Dago Pena contributed 10. Pitts started the game 6-for-6 from the field and finished the half 6-for-8, scoring all of his points before the break.
The Thundering Herd came into the game on a two game losing streak after falling to Memphis the previous Saturday and to East Carolina in overtime on Wednesday night.
A loss to the Southern Mississippi—who sat at second in the Conference USA standings—would have been the punctuation mark on a disappointing season that carried the promise of a conference championship and NCAA tournament berth at the start of the season.
Instead of rolling over, however, Marshall traded blows back and forth with the Golden Eagles. The 10 ties and 10 lead changes are testament to the seesaw nature of the game.
In a game that in many ways came down to free throw shooting, the Herd managed to nail nearly 69 percent of their free throws—a major accomplishment for a team that averages right at 60 percent. Southern Miss struggled mightily shooting 54 percent on 14-for-26 from the line.
Southern Mississippi forward Jonathan Mills led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 17 points while shooting 70 percent (7-for-10) from the painted area. His struggles from the free throw line (3-for-8), on more than one occasion, prematurely cut off potential Golden Eagle runs.
Although the game was decided near the end on key free throw shooting, the real story of the game was the dominance of the Thundering Herd in the paint. Marshall outscored Southern Mississippi in the paint 40-24 and bullied them on the rebounds with a 44-36 advantage. The plus eight rebounding margin went right along with the Herd's season average of plus 7.7.
The win brings Marshall's record to 18-12 on the season and 9-7 in Conference USA—their third straight winning record in conference play—and puts them as the sixth seed in the upcoming conference tournament. They will play the 11th-seeded Southern Methodist University on Wednesday.
Southern Mississippi's hopes of a share of the conference regular season title were cut short when Memphis beat Tulsa prior to tip-off. The loss to Marshall finishes their regular season with a 24-5 record and 11-5 in Conference USA. Their second place finish in the league gives them an automatic bye in the conference tournament. They will face the winner of No. 7 seed Rice and No. 10 seed East Carolina on Thursday.