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Herd battles, falls short

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Richard Crank

Richard Crank

49ers best men in final seconds

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The Marshall University men’s basketball team dropped its sixth straight game Saturday with its last-second, 77-72 loss to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (7-8 (1-2)).
The game was the Thundering Herd’s (4-12 (0-3)) closest contest since the 69-66 loss to West Virginia University in the Capital Classic in December.

The Herd, much like it did against Old Dominion University Thusday, remained close throughout the first half, keeping the score within 10 points. Marshall had even cut the lead to two before a three-pointer by the 49ers’ Keyshawn Woods at the buzzer sent the Herd into the locker room trailing 41-36.

After Charlotte had extended its lead out to 14 in the second half, the Herd did what it hadn’t been doing in the second half of games this season. Instead of folding, the Herd fought back, clawing to within seven points of the lead multiple times.

Leading the charge was guard Austin Loop, who led all scorers with 26 points, 15 of which came off of five three pointers.
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni praised Loop after the game for his consistency and ability to score and lead the team.

“I think he’s doing a great job,” D’Antoni said. “Because every [opposing] coach says you can’t leave him. Without making moves to open himself up, he finds openings, we get him the ball and he puts up numbers.”

Loop, who set a new career-high with his point total, cut the deficit to four with 5:38 remaining. A Tamron Manning drive to the basket would bring the Herd within two at 67-65.

Moments later, Manning would add two important free throws to once again draw the Herd within two at 72-70 and just over a minute to go.

With under a minute to go, the Herd had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Ryan Taylor’s jumper wouldn’t go, forcing the Herd to foul.
Stepping to the line for the 49ers was South Charleston native Pierria Henry, who had a contingent of fans in the Cam Henderson Center cheering for him.

Henry made one free throw, keeping the Herd within one score with 8.2 seconds left. A 49ers foul on Loop sent the guard to the line, where he buried two free throws without any time coming off the clock.

Down one point after the free throws, the Herd sent Henry to the line again. The West Virginia native sank both free throws, finishing the game with 19 points, nine assists, six steals and five rebounds.

Trailing by three, the Herd had one final shot to tie it. On the ensuing inbounds, Manning had the ball stripped and after a mad scramble, the 49ers dunked it at the horn.

D’Antoni said after the game the plan was for Manning to get to half court and call a timeout, but the steal and scramble for the ball allowed time to expire.

We shot ourselves in the foot tonight, but I still feel like we’re getting better.”

— Ryan Taylor

Despite starting conference play 0-3, Taylor, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, said he sees the team getting better with each game.

“Just in the first three games in conference we’ve gotten a lot better,” Taylor said. “We shot ourselves in the foot tonight, but I still feel like we’re getting better.”

After seemingly folding in the second half of most games, the Herd remained close until the final horn against the 49ers. Led by the emerging Loop, the Herd put together a full, 40-minute effort.

“We just kept plugging away and plugging away,” Taylor said. “We got it down to two and thought the tables had turned, but unfortunately they didn’t. We just played hard all night.”

The Herd will spend its next two conference games in Florida, taking on Florida International University Jan.15 and Florida Atlantic University Jan.17. Marshall’s next home game is Jan.22 when it faces the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Shannon Stowers can be contacted at [email protected]

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