By Woody Woodrum
Herd Insider Senior Editor
February 1, 2011
HOUSTON, Texas – Marshall had never defeated the Houston Cougars at Hofheinz Pavilion on the UH campus. In fact, the Thundering Herd men’s team had only one win in six meetings all-times with the Cougars.
But in a building where the Herd was not only 0-3 all-time, but were beaten by an average of 13 points per game in those - including a 81-66 loss just last year - two points scored by the Herd’s bench in the entire game would be just enough to carry the day, and win the game.
Junior center Aundra Williams scored his only points, on his only shot of the game, on a layup with 11 seconds to play, lifting Marshall to a 63-62 victory over Houston on Tuesday night in Hofheinz Pavilion.
It is an arena opened in the 1960s where Cougar legends like Otis Birdsong, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler roamed the very floor that MU and UH played upon.
An announced crowd of 3,021 must have included a lot of tickets sold, as there were no more than 800-900 fans in the 10,000-seat facility.
Conference USA Freshman of the Week (for the third time this season) DeAndre Kane had 24 points and tied his career-best with nine rebounds to lead the Thundering Herd (15-7, 3-4 Conference USA) to its first road win in C-USA play, after opening with losses at UCF, Memphis and UAB.
Williams played 18 minutes, as both sophomore center Nigel Spikes (six points, two rebounds, two blocks and two steals) and senior forward Tirrell Baines (ten points, seven rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal) fouled out of the contest, and senior center Orlando Allen (a rebound and a block) played with three fouls.
“(It was a) very entertaining game. Tonight we found a way,” said Herd head coach Tom Herrion, who picked up win No. 95 as a collegiate head coach at first the College of Charleston and now with Marshall.
“As this team continues to evolve, we got to find a way in certain situations and tonight we did that. Aundra Williams was in the right place at the right time, and obviously it was a big bucket. We are really thrilled with this victory.”
Dre Kane led the Herd with 24 points and nine rebounds to Marshall's first-ever win at Houston on Tuesday night, 63-62. Kane's last shot attempt was blocked with :13 to go, but junior college center Aundra Williams got his only points off his only offensive rebounds to give the Herd a one-point win. Herd Insider file photo by Greg Perry
The contest was tied for the 11th time of the night with 2:08 to go at 61-61 on a free throw by Maurice McNeal.
After a turnover by the Herd, Houston would send Alandis Harris, a true freshman forward, to the line after he got Baines to foul out after fouling Spikes out earlier with 2:42 to play.
Harris hit one of two free throws with 1:18 to play to give UH a 62-61 lead, the 12th lead change of the night. Harris was 12-for-20 at the line, scoring 16 points and tying McNeal for the team lead in scoring on the evening.
“We played through foul trouble tonight, too,” said Herrion. “I was really concerned before the game about them jamming the ball into the post, and that’s what they did in the second half, jammed it right down our throat, getting the whistles.
"We didn’t do a good job defending it early, and they kept going inside and got to the foul line. They got (to the line) way too much.”
Houston shot 31 free throws, to just 18 for the Herd, but made only 19 (61 percent).
The Herd, out of a time out, found, Dago Pena for a three that missed the mark, but Pena got his own rebound – again, his only rebound.
With :58 seconds left, Pitts had a real good look at a three, but missed the mark and Houston senior point guard Zamal Nixon got the rebound.
Nixon then missed on a three and the ball went out of bounds to the Herd, who worked the ball over half-court and then took a timeout to set up a play.
With 16 seconds left, Kane drove to the basket but had the shot by Harris. Williams got his only offensive rebound and hit the stick-back to give Marshall the 63-62 lead with 11 seconds to go.
“We got the play we wanted, Dre drove the ball and Aundra was in the right place at the right time,” said Herrion.
“Our kids talked about they had never won here. (Houston) didn’t go away, James (Dickey, UH’s first-year head coach) is doing a great job with that club.”
UH brought the ball up the court, but Adam Brown was doubled by Pitts and Shaquille Johnson, and Pena reached in to get a steal. He flipped it to Pitts, who threw up court for what looked like an Kane dunk coming to finish the game, but a foul was called on the Cougars Darian Thibodeaux with :01.3 left in the game.
Pitts missed the first free throw, his first miss of the night as the ball went in and then out. Coming out of a Houston time-out, Pitts was instructed by Herrion to shot to miss as quick as he got the ball from the officials in hopes the final time would run off the clock, and a two-point lead would not be safe from a long, miracle shot.
“My call,” said Herrion of Pitts second miss. “We took a time out, and they got the rebound and took a time out. They made a great play. My theory is the three will beat you, and that’s the most likely shot there.”
But McLean went up for Pitts rebound and called time out coming down, just leaving :00.7 on the clock.
During a MU timeout, the officials looked at the replay and ordered the clock reset to :00.9, but the scoreboard operator took nearly five minutes in getting the correct number up.
Once the clock was set, on the inbounds, Harris threw over the arms of Allen the length of the court, almost grazing the overhead scoreboard and jumbotron.
McLean caught the ball and hoisted it towards the basket, just missing to the right from about 12-feet away as the horn sounded.
A stick-back by Houston was in, but after the buzzer, and Marshall had its first road win in conference play of the season and a win at Houston for the first time.
“At the end of the game, it was great execution from them. We are in a panic mode: you can’t foul and you can’t get too aggressive,” said Herrion. “I can’t believe the kid (McLean) got the shot off he did. They got a two and got a great shot. It was scratching and clawing and finding a way to win.”
The Cougars (11-10, 3-5), who have lost a season-high four straigh.
Both teams struggled from three, each making just three on 13 shots (MU) or on 11 shots (UH).
Of course, these are the two best three-point defensive teams in C-USA, with Marshall holding opponents to just 28.5 percent and UH just 28.7 percent.
“We attacked the basket inside out tonight, because we didn’t take a lot of threes, our shooters couldn’t get it going,” said Herrion.
“Dago had an off night. That’s what a good team does."
Pena was 0-for-4 from the field, after making 11-of-19 threes in the last three games.
“My program, my team is still evolving. If you are going to be a great team you have got to find a way to win.”
Marshall did shoot 50 percent from the field, making 25-of-50. Houston made just 20-of-44, 45.5 percent.
The Cougars made up for fewer field goals by making 19-of -31 from the line, but Marshall was just 10-for-18.
The teams tied for rebounds with 28 each, and 11 on the offensive glass each. Marshall dominated the middle, scoring 38 points in the paint to just 26 for the Cougars.
Pitts scored 14 points and led the Herd with four assists. Johnson added seven points, a rebound and an assist.
This series goes back to Feb. 1, 1968 in Madison Square Garden in New York City, 41-years ago this night, meeting Elvin Hayes and the Cougar team that had knocked off UCLA in the Astrodome in Houston just days before.
That was a thriller with the Herd of Herd coach Ellis Johnson, invited back to the Garden after making the NIT Final Four the year before behind players like Bob Redd, Danny D’Antoni and George Stone, falling to Hayes and the back-to-back NCAA Final Four No. 1-ranked Cougar team, 102-93.
In fact, MU’s only win over UH came at the Cam Henderson Center two years ago, 88-83, in Feb. of 2009.
But with a first-ever win over Memphis last Saturday, a first win on the road in C-USA play and a first win at Houston, the Herd will have to refocus on Friday, as they will have another road trip, a home game, and one more road trip before playing three of the last four games in February at the Henderson Center.
“We had a short turnaround from Saturday. The kids have traveled well, they stepped up and accepted the next challenge.
"So we will get back in the plane and get back to Huntington Wednesday, get our legs back some before we get on the plane Friday to head down to play another quality team in our league in Southern Miss at Hattiesburg on Saturday,” said Herrion.
Marshall defeated the Golden Eagles in Huntington by 30 points, 95-65, on Jan. 8.