WESTERN KENTUCKY VS OLD DOMINION
The number two and three seeds In the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Tournament met Friday night when Western Kentucky outlasted Old Dominion in a hard-fought slug fest, ultimately prevailing 57-49.
On a night where points were hard to come by for both teams, stalwart forward Justin Johnson poured in 19 points and hauled down 13 rebounds to keep the Hilltoppers in the hunt throughout the game.
The first half featured rough play by both teams, and in the waning seconds of the half Western led 28-22.
Frantically racing down court, Western forward Lamonte Bearden drilled a three point jumper from 24 feet as the buzzer expired to power Western to a 31-22 halftime advantage.
The second half unfolded similarly as both teams featured tight defense and grinding offense.
Western broke open a close game when Trey Porter of Old Dominion picked up a technical foul on a dead ball violation with just over a minute left.
Porter left the game with his fifth foul, and Western converted one of two foul shots before getting the ball back.
From there, third-seeded Western hung on to become the first team to reach the finals. Johnson, Western’s forward, reach the 1000 rebound mark for his career early in the game, finishing with 1011 rebounds thus far in his career.
MARSHALL VS SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
Midnight struck, and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles’ carriage turned into a pumpkin as their improbable run in the C-USA Men’s Basketball Tournament came to an end Friday night against the Marshall Thundering Herd, losing 85-75.
Marshall raced to an early lead, and seemed to have the game in hand until a late flurry by Southern Miss rekindled their flickering hopes of making it to the championship game.
Ninth seeded Southern Miss, seemingly dead after falling behind by 24 points in the second half, chipped away at the fourth-seeded Thundering Herd’s apparent insurmountable lead, eventually whittling it to six points as the clock wound down toward two minutes in the game.
The high-scoring Thundering Herd then regained their swagger, pairing a three-pointer with a 10 for 10 performance from the foul line in the final 2:13 that of the game to close out the victory.
Marshall advanced to the championship game on Saturday night and faced off with third seed Western Kentucky, who swept the Herd during the regular season.
Championship Game: Western Kentucky VS Marshall
A furious late rally by Western Kentucky fell just short, and the Marshall Thundering Herd prevailed 67-66 as the 2018 CUSA Men’s basketball champion.
Leading much of the first half, Marshall pulled comfortably ahead by 10 points with three minutes left.
Western employed a smaller lineup and a frantic defense to erase most of the deficit going into the final minute.
After a Western steal, the Hilltoppers had possession of the ball and a chance at the lead, trailing 67-66 with 21 seconds left. At that point, the Western comeback stalled as they missed two inside shots in the waning seconds.
Western was plagued throughout the game by cold shooting (35% from the field and 31% from the three-point line) and Marshall scorched the Western defense for 43% from beyond the three-point line.
Tournament MVP John Elmore led the Thundering Herd with 27 points, including hitting seven of 13 three-pointers, many from well beyond the arc.
Western senior forward Justin Johnson closed out his career leading Western with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Marshall advances to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over a quarter-century and Western enters the NIT tournament as a four seed.