Marshall falls to Middle Tennessee, 86-78, in NIT opener
Thundering Herd can't dig out of deep hole
Playing its fifth game in seven days, Marshall made a valiant comeback before suffering an 86-78 season-ending defeat at Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday night in the NIT opening game.
The Thundering Herd (21-14) trailed 8-0 less than three minutes into the game and finally got on the scoreboard via a Nigel Spikes hoop at the 16:19 mark.
After Marshall managed to get within three at 10-7 on a Spikes' lay-up with 13:50 remaining, the Blue Raiders (26-6) extended their advantage to 32-19 with 4:39 to play and took a 39-30 lead into the locker room.
As the second half began, MTSU slowly added to its lead and built a game-high 75-54 advantage with 8:31 remaining in the game when James Gallman knocked down a three-pointer.
Tom Herrion's club didn't collapse though as they clawed to within five when a Shaquille Johnson made a lay-up with 1:43 to play.
MTSU's Marcos Knight and Jimmy Oden each made a pair of free throws in the final thirty-three seconds to hold off gritty Marshall.
The Herd, which never led in the game, was led by Damier Pitts and Dennis Tinnon. Pitts finished with 19 points while Tinnon tallied 18 points and 11 boards. Kane and Johnson also reached double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Blue Raiders, which shot over 50 percent (32-of-61) for the game, placed for players in double figures. LaRon Dendy posted 18 points and 13 rebounds. Sutton had 16 while Jones and Cintron had 15 and 12, respectively.
MTSU, which improved to 15-1 at home with its first postseason win since 1989, will now travel to top-seeded Tennessee for the second round.