Marshall's run ends in 87-53 loss to Memphis

TERESA M. WALKER AP Sports Writer Published:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Playing four games in as many days takes a toll. Playing Conference USA's regular season champion on its home floor proved too much for Marshall to overcome.

DeAndre Kane scored 16 points, and Marshall's run through the league tournament ended Saturday with an 87-53 loss to Memphis.

"We didn't close the deal," Marshall coach Tom Herrion said. "We're disappointed with the loss. I'm proud of this group for what they have done this week in particular, and now we'll look forward to playing again."

Marshall (21-13) became the first No. 6 seed to reach the Conference USA tournament championship with a run that included a triple-overtime win over Tulsa in the quarterfinals. The Thundering Herd hadn't gotten past the quarterfinals before this week, and they wound up falling short in their first tournament final since 1997 in a loss to Chattanooga.

Now they will wait and see if a resume that includes a win over Cincinnati and a split with Atlantic Sun champ Belmont earns them a chance at their first NCAA tournament berth since 1987.

"I think Marshall is an NCAA tournament team," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "They deserve to be in the field."

Marshall ran into a Memphis team that is on a roll. The Tigers (26-8) won their seventh straight game overall while grabbing the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth and the 15th consecutive tournament win on their own court. The Tigers are 31-8 all-time in tournament games played in Memphis.

"We're just clicking now," said Will Barton, who added 18 points and 13 rebounds. "Guys know their roles now. Know what coach wants us to do. We're coming out with a lot of energy and passion, and I think that's the main thing. .. We've always had the elite-level talent.

Jackson also had six assists, Wesley Witherspoon had 11 points and Chris Crawford and Ferrakhon Hall each had 10. Jackson called the win one of the Tigers' best performances in forcing Marshall to take a lot of bad shots, even though he still thinks they were better in an 87-67 win at Marshall on Feb. 25.

Kane led Marshall with 16 points. Damier Pitts had 12 and Shaquille Johnson 10.

"We ran into a team that's playing as well as any team in America," Herrion said. "That team might be the most improved team in the country over the last three or four weeks, and they played that way. Obviously, we played uphill on the fourth day and had to play from behind. .When you are playing down from that margin, on the road, in this environment, on their home floor, you exert so much energy."

Marshall could only get within 57-44 on a fast-break layup by Kane. Memphis answered with consecutive 3s first by Barton, then his brother, Antonio Barton. Hall dunked to push the lead to 65-44 with 7:17 left. The Tigers pushed that to as much as 26 down the stretch before Pastner subbed out en masse with 1:20 left to a standing ovation.

The Tigers wound up shooting 57.7 percent (26 of 44) from the floor and a sizzling 25 of 27 at the free throw line (92.6 percent). They even managed to outrebound C-USA's top rebounding team 33-30. Marshall shot just 35.5 percent (22 of 62).

Memphis took control with a 17-2 run in the first half that featured the Tigers hitting all eight attempts at the free throw line, the last four by Witherspoon for a 28-18 lead.

Fatigue seemed to catch up with the Thundering Herd as they finished the half hitting only three of their final 15 shots. Memphis had no such problems with a heavy blue home crowd ready to cheer and provide an extra boost of energy whenever needed.

"We played tough, and it was a tough tournament for us," Kane said. "Four games, and we came up short today . They outplayed us today. We'll suck this loss up."