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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Women’s Basketball Makes Herd History

The+women%E2%80%99s+team+poses+with+their+trophy+following+their+win+in+the+Sun+Belt%0AChampionship.
Courtesy of HerdZone
The women’s team poses with their trophy following their win in the Sun Belt Championship.

For the first time since 1997, Marshall Women’s Basketball is going dancing after defeating the James Madison Dukes 95-92 on Monday, March 11, in an overtime thriller.

Kim Caldwell’s first year as head coach has left a lasting impression on the Sun Belt, with her team breaking many records along the way.

“I can’t really even describe it!” Caldwell said. “They worked their tails off. The ball was not going in, and they found a way to get it done. That sums up what this team has been about from the very beginning. It’s been heart, it’s been heart, it’s been heart. We’ve been thrown some tough breaks, but they’ve always found a way to get it done.”

The second half of Monday’s contest proved to be the deciding factor for the Sun Belt Championship-clinching game. In the early stages of the fourth quarter, the Herd went on a ten-point run to push the lead to 62-52.

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The Herd’s lead was short-lived; with four minutes remaining in the quarter, the lead dissolved, and the game was tied 68-68 going into crunch time.

Forty minutes and a plethora of free throws were not enough to decide a winner. Going into overtime, the game was notched evenly at 76-76.

With 31 seconds remaining in overtime, and a JMU defender laying on the hardwood in front of her, Aislynn Hayes launched the ball from the elbow and connected on a jumper to push the Herd’s late lead to four points in the waning moments of the contest.

With JMU forced to foul late, a pair of free throws from Breanna Campbell ultimately sealed the victory for the Herd. Campbell played all five minutes of overtime, an uncharacteristic move from the substitute heavy Herd team.

“Bre played the entire five minutes there without a sub, which I don’t think I’ve ever done,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think I’ve ever left a player in for that long, but she didn’t even blink.”

One of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams was held in check by the Dukes, with the Herd only making eight threes out of its 46 attempts. Shooting struggles didn’t deter the Herd from continuing to fire, which proved to be crucial with late threes changing the flow of the game.

“We’ve been there before where we haven’t been hitting shots throughout the season, so we were all confident in each other,” Campbell said, “and that the shot was going to fall eventually when we needed it to, so we just kept our head up and kept going.”

Despite the three balls not falling, the Herd found other ways to score, scoring 40 points in the paint and 27 points from the free throw line.

Forward Meredith Maier had the hot hand when Marshall needed it most in the second half. 

Despite Maier’s slow start in the first half, the last 25 minutes of the contest resulted in multiple threes that changed the momentum of the game in the Herd’s favor.

Maier’s 20-point championship performance along with her performance throughout the tournament earned her a spot on the SBC All-Tournament team alongside teammate Abby Beeman.

Offensively, the Herd had five players in double-digits, including SBC Tournament MVP Beeman, who tallied another double-double and notched 11 assists despite fouling out late in the contest.

Hayes also collected some clutch shots on her route to 19 points, including a three with only two minutes remaining along with her shot at the 31-second mark.

The Herd clinched its spot in March Madness after overcoming its closest win this season with the press-style defense that has been on display all season forcing 39 JMU turnovers leading to 48 points in Marshall’s favor.

The defensive showing kept the Dukes moving during the game, with the Herd totaling 20 steals against a team that averages only 16 turnovers a game.

Marshall will have to wait patiently until Sunday, March 17 to receive its placement in the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Bracket.

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