HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Memphis men's basketball coach Josh Pastner hasn't tasted defeat in more than two months. Yet he isn't going to take any one of his Tigers' 16 straight victories for granted.
"As I've told people back in Memphis, it's not a birthright to win 16 in a row. It's not a birthright to be ranked in the top 25. I don't take a single win for granted. I enjoy all of them because I know how hard it is."
Adonis Thomas scored 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the No. 22 Memphis Tigers to a 71-59 win over Marshall on Saturday night at the Cam Henderson Center.
The win likely will be the Tigers' last in Huntington as Marshall's conference opponent. Memphis moves from Conference USA to the Big East next season. The Tigers lead their series with the Thundering Herd 13-2, winning the last five. Three of the last four Memphis wins over Marshall have been by double digits.
And while the final score might make Memphis' win look easy, the Herd did what it could to snap the Tigers' streak. Up by 17 points at halftime, the Tigers (22-3, 10-0 C-USA) made just one of their first 10 shots of the second half. That allowed the Herd (11-15, 4-7 C-USA) to carve into that lead. When Elijah Pittman made a free throw with 10:44 left in the game, Marshall pulled to within five points at 46-41.
That scoring flurry might have reminded the Tigers of their first win over the Herd this season, the closest Memphis has come to a loss since Louisville won 87-78 at FedEx Forum on Dec. 15. Memphis pulled out a nailbiter over Marshall, 73-72, on Jan. 26.
But Geron Johnson answered with a 3-pointer for Memphis with 10:30 left, and another 3-pointer with 8:22 left capped a 7-2 run that gave the Tigers a 56-43 lead and breathing room for the rest of the game.
Thomas, who recorded a career high in points and tied a career high in rebounds, said that first game in Memphis was in the front of the Tigers' minds coming into Saturday. Film study showed them the flaws they needed to fix for the rematch.|
"We saw a lot of things we did wrong," Thomas said. "The majority of it was things we did wrong. As far as transition defense, we were horrible at Memphis. They had 17 offensive boards as well. We wanted to keep them off the boards the best we could and we wanted to get back in transition and stop some of those threes they made earlier."
Pittman and DeAndre Kane led the Herd with 16 points each, while Dennis Tinnon added 15 points and 13 rebounds. Joe Jackson scored 12 points for Memphis, while Johnson added 11.
Kane said the Herd needed to play with the energy it had during its second-half rally for the entire game.
"We've got to come out of the gate with the same intensity we had in the second half," he said. "The first half, we played good for five minutes. After that, we couldn't score the ball and we couldn't get a stop."
Marshall jumped out to a quick lead, energized by a loud Henderson Center crowd. Back-to-back 3-pointers by juniors Pittman and D.D. Scarver gave the Thundering Herd a 10-3 lead less than three minutes into the game. Yet, as quickly as Marshall's hot streak started, it fizzled.
After Scarver hit his 3-pointer at the 17:43 mark, Memphis outscored the Herd 24-5 in the next 10:10. The Tigers started the run close to the basket, making seven of their first 10 shots inside the arc. They followed with two 3-pointers from sophomore swingman Thomas.
By the time Tinnon scored on a layup with 7:32 left in the half, the Herd's seven-point lead had devolved into a 27-17 deficit. Thomas finished the first half with 15 points, more than four points above his season average, and Memphis went into halftime with a 43-26 lead.
That lead, Marshall coach Tom Herrion said, was too much to overcome.
"We were playing pretty well defensively (in the second half), and we start making some shots and it helps us chip away, chip away, chip away," he said. "It was too big of a difference to make up against a great team."
NOTES: Kane passed Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Hal Greer for 19th on Marshall's career scoring list after hitting a 3-pointer with 15:43 left in the first half. ... Saturday was the first time Marshall coach Tom Herrion faced a ranked opponent on his home court. In four seasons as coach at College of Charleston and three at Marshall, he never had the opportunity. ... The Tigers' arrival in Huntington gave Memphis coach Josh Pastner one more trip to the state of his birth. Pastner was born in Glen Dale, W. Va., in the northern panhandle, on Sept. 26, 1977.